WoW’s Back End: 10 Data Centers, 75,000 Cores


It takes a lot of resources to host the world’s largest online games. One of the largest players in this niche is Blizzard, which operates World of Warcraft and the gaming service for its Starcraft and Diablo titles. World of Warcraft (WoW) is played by more than 11.5 million users across three continents, requiring both scale and geographic scope.

Blizzard hosts its gaming infrastructure with AT&T, which provides data center space, network monitoring and management. AT&T, which has been supporting Blizzard for nine years, doesn’t provide a lot of details on Blizzard’s infrastructure. But Blizzard’s Allen Brack and Frank Pearce provided some details at the recent Game Developer’s Conference in Austin. Here are some data points:

  • Blizzard Online Network Services run in 10 data centers around the world, including facilities in Washington, California, Texas, Massachusetts, France, Germany, Sweden, South Korea, China, and Taiwan.
  • Blizzard uses 20,000 systems and 1.3 petabytes of storage to power its gaming operations.
  • WoW’s infrastructure includes 13,250 server blades, 75,000 CPU cores, and 112.5 terabytes of blade RAM.
  • The Blizzard network is managed by a staff of 68 people.
  • The company’s gaming infrastructure is monitored from a global network operating center (GNOC), which like many NOCs, features televisions tuned to the weather stations to track potential uptime threats across its data center footprint.

The AT&T Gaming Core Team was formed in 2004 to host gaming operations using AT&T’s IP network. The team consists of engineers and hosting specialists who provide round-the-clock support to companies offering MMO games.

For more on the specialized niche for game hosting, see Virtual Goods and the Cost of Infrastructure, Second Life and the Scalability of Online Games and Engineering Everquest.

For additional information on Blizzard’s recent discussions of its infrastructure, see Gamespot, Gamasutra and ComputerWorld.


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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. Gee

    "WoW’s infrastructure includes 3,250 server blades, 75,000 CPU cores, and 112.5 terabytes of blade RAM." Meaning ~35,6 GB RAM per blade?! I guess it would be 32,500 server blades... with 3,5 GB RAM on average

  2. The post has been updated to reflect the correct number of blades, which 13,250, not 3,250. Sorry for the typo.