Hardware Today -- Scaling Mythical Realms With Dell Page 2

By Ben Freeman (Send Email)
Posted Aug 23, 2004

What We Call a World

"When you actually play our game, you join what we call a world," Denton said. Eighteen worlds live on eight Dell servers mirroring each other for redundancy purposes. A ninth server acts as a hub for those entering the game.

Seven additional servers, which Mythic refers to as World Boxes, run 100 "world tasks," Denton said. Such tasks are run across each World Box and keep the Worlds functioning as players expect. This way, should one server crash, play continues transparently.

"It's like a cluster of clusters," Denton says. Dell servers round out Mythic's more mundane functions as well. "We have an entire billing solution coded [and running] on Dell," as well as infrastructure Linux databases, he notes.

Heroic Reliability

Mythic's servers have interoperated reliably across multiple generations of Dell products, Denton said. "We have some 200 Dell servers running nonstop, some of them for over three years," he noted, with "very few hardware machine-level problems." Hot-swappable RAID Level 1 and RAID Level 5 drives handle the odd hard drive crash without service interruption.

The Dell servers have functioned so heroically that Mythic's operations staff consists of only one part-time employee. "We were expecting to need a multiperson operation staff to handle our hardware problems," Denton said. "Some [companies] might go with a Windows NT solution, and you hear these horror stories of how they need a 12-person operation staff to constantly swap out machines or deal with outages. We just don't have these problems."

For the few problems Mythic has encountered, Dell support has come through in shining armor. Even so, "over the course of three years, I can count the number of issues on one hand," Denton said.

Future Adventures

Denton is eager to see the EM64T Nocona-driven PowerEdge 1850 in actual deployment. Nocona's trifecta of better bus, memory, and processor speeds, coupled with lower power consumption, will allow more servers per rack and thus save on operating costs down the road.

Mythic casts a wizened warrior's wary eye on new server offerings. Blades for example: "They've [Dell has] come up with new technologies like their blade technology, and that looks neat, but that's not the best cost solution for us where we stand right now," Denton notes. Ditto for Opteron. Mythic will consider an Opteron offering only if such a server makes a more attractive value proposition than Dell's Xeon servers.

"We have something that works great for us right now, so why would we want to change?" Denton ponders. An advantage like dramatically lowered cost, decreased power consumption, or double processor compatibility might merit exploring newer technologies, but, "it's hard to go with something that is not proven."

Mythic is but one example of the loyal commodity customer driving Dell toward sales success in the crowded commodity space. "Of all the vendors that we tend to deal with, Dell has been one of the best," Denton notes. He goes so far as to say that Mythic's relationship with Dell has helped keep various competitive products from laying claim to Mythic's enterprise throne.

"We have a representative who answers us immediately, and gets us quotes back immediately. We get our hardware in a timely fashion, it's reliable, and it works," he said, adding, "You can file us under enthusiastic because we would not be in business right now if it weren't for Dell."

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