CandyStand.com

The experience of an online gaming company is a perfect example of how cloud computing can provide cost-effective, highly available and scalable hosting solutions. In late 2008, Candystand.com chose HOSTING and Cloud Enterprise for their managed hosting needs.

In September of 2008, Candystand.com was acquired by Funtank.com. Candystand.com is the web’s premier destination for free-to-play, family friendly, high quality online games – with over 5 million unique visitors each month. The free online gaming portal includes registration, score submitting, and leader boards. Candystand.com has one of the most loyal user bases in the industry due in most part to its interactive gaming but also because of consumer confidence in the site.

When Funtank needed to migrate the Candystand.com infrastructure to a new hosting provider, it had to be done seamlessly and without interruption. “We play in an extremely competitive market and the experience that our site offers meets a very specific consumer need – brief bursts of entertainment,” stated Scott Tannen, President of Funtank. “Our users count on Candystand.com being available when they need a break. Every second that our site is down we risk disappointing our users and possibly losing them to a competitor. That is a risk that we are unwilling to take.”

Upkeep and Maintenance Became Cost Prohibitive

Candystand.com, like most companies, deployed a traditional managed hosting solution in a physical environment to ensure their site was highly available and redundant. Constantin Koumouzelis, Candystand.com Director of Technology explained, “We had up to 20 physical machines and they were ‘moderately’ utilized with the exception of the web and database servers. All other servers were doing something, sometimes – the continued maintenance and upkeep of the under-utilized servers was cost prohibitive.”

When looking for a new hosting provider, Candystand.com had three complex, yet simple expectations. First, the solution had to be highly reliable and secure. Second, it needed to be scalable to accommodate their aggressive growth strategies. And finally, the solution needed to be cost effective.

Candystand.com engaged several hosting companies for a new solution. When HOSTING learned of the solution requirements, they provided information on creating a traditional, dedicated environment, but also began discussions on how Candystand.com could benefit from a private, virtualized environment on Cloud Enterprise, HOSTING’s cloud hosting infrastructure.

Candystand.com was open to virtualization, but it was not the preferred method of deployment – initially. “Frankly, we were under-educated on how a virtual environment could be used to meet our needs. HOSTING was very instrumental in explaining the benefits and security of a virtualized infrastructure,” added Koumouzelis.

Virtualization – A Perfect Fit

When HOSTING learned of Candystand.com’s expectations of a hosted solution, virtualization through VMware technologies was an immediate option. VMware’s HA (High Availability) and DRS (Dynamic Resource Scheduler) components were a natural fit for Candystand.com. DRS would allow virtual machines and loads to be allocated as needed, when needed.

For example, if Candystand.com needed additional resources for a gaming tournament for 48 hours, the virtual servers could be spun up and then easily turned down or reallocated after the tournament.

HOSTING provides VMware enterprise virtualization solutions at a much lower cost through its Infrastructure-as-a-Service pricing model vs. traditional methods of purchasing virtualization technologies. In addition to VMware components, HOSTING also recommended a standards-based architecture solution that included an environment connected and stored on an HP SAN (Storage Area Network), Unified Threat Management for unparalleled levels of security, and server load balancing for additional layers of redundancy and failover.

Koumouzelis commented, “HOSTING provided the most complete solution to meet our needs. Our specific requests for separate staging and development environments, hardware and OS failover, high availability and scalability were all critical components of the Cloud Enterprise solution recommended by HOSTING”

Migration and Service

The entire Candystand.com solution was predicated on a service provider’s ability to quickly create the environment needed by Candystand.com so that they could meet their tight, or as they phrased it “extraordinarily aggressive,” deadlines for migration and implementation. Provisioning and migration is a clear area where the virtual solution helped both Candystand.com and HOSTING meet the timeline goals.

HOSTING was able to provision, cluster, load and prepare six physical servers with multiple virtual machines on each server rather than provisioning the 13-15 physical servers that would have been needed in a traditional environment.

HOSTING provided two test virtual machines to Candystand.com prior to the completion of the physical environment so they could begin working on the migration. These allowed Candystand.com to begin creating virtual machines that they could quickly copy to the physical environment.

HOSTING went above and beyond our expectations by providing us virtual machines prior to the completion of the physical environment. Our engineers could start working on the migration immediately. In this case, virtualization and HOSTING’s service helped us decrease the amount of time necessary for migration,” added Koumouzelis.

Real Value, Right Now

Most importantly, Candystand.com was able to meet their timeline for implementation and found a solution that met their three criteria: reliability and security, scalability and cost-efficiency. In addition, HOSTING and Candystand.com formed a lasting partnership centered on HOSTING’s ability to provide the high-level of service and supported an online company like Candystand.com expects.

Koumouzelis noted, “During the migration, we were on the phone until 10 PM or later with HOSTINGexecutives and decision-makers that helped us understand the complexities and abilities of the solution we were building. Cloud Enterprise enabled us to hit the ground running with a virtualized, load balanced and scalable solution. We have a much simpler solution to maintain and lowered our costs.”

Specific Benefits Included:

  • Reduced Hardware Needed – From 15 to 6 Physical Servers – A 60% Reduction
    • Decreased Maintenance Needed
    • Decreased Capital Expenses
  • Ability to Scale Rapidly – New Servers Provisioned in Less than 30 Minutes
  • 40% Reduction in Managed Hosting Costs
  • OS and Hardware Fault Tolerance and Load Balancing
  • Additional Redundancy, Security and High Availability
  • Hardware Failure Recovery in 15 Seconds or Less

Tannen summarized the benefits, “At the end of the day, HOSTING provided us with the most robust, elastic and scalable solution at a fraction of the cost of other traditional hosting providers. We saved 40% on monthly costs and have the one of the best Infrastructure-as-a-Service solutions available.”

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