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EVE Online: 30,000 Users on One Server Shard

The MMORPG game EVE Online says it has assembled the largest supercomputer cluster in the history of the gaming, and has hosted 30,000 concurrent users on a single shard.

CCP Games says it has assembled the largest supercomputer cluster in the history of the online gaming industry for EVE Online, the growing science fiction MMORPG. EVE Online recently hosted 30,000 concurrent users on a single shard - which CCP says is a world record - and now manages more than 150 million database transactions per day.

The game runs on a cluster featuring dual-processor 64-bit AMD Opteron-based IBM BladeCenter LS20 blade servers with additional enhancements to the clusters internet backbone. The database servers don't use traditional hard drives but instead Solid State Disks (SSD) which can handle over 400,000 random I/Os per second.

"The sharp growth rate of EVE Online was pushing the limits of the technology we replaced," said Hilmar Veigar Petursson, CEO of CCP Games, which is based in Reykjavik, Iceland and says it hopes to support at least 50,000 concurrent users. "Our goal was to implement a scalable solution that could accommodate the influx of new subscribers and gracefully manage the steadily increasing demand put on our infrastructure. IBM provided us with optimized hardware that improved overall game performance and increased capacity, especially during peak server usage timeframes."

I've become interested in EVE Online recently because both my sons have begun playing. They enjoy MMOs, and have played or tested a number of games. There was heavy-duty World of Warcraft phase, followed by time exploring City of Heroes/City of Villains, but they've now given up those games to focus on EVE Online. It's a science fiction game with a strong focus on economics and commerce, so they're picking up some supply-and-demand insight as well.

I was surprised to see that there was only one server/shard used. A shard, also known as a realm, is an instance of a gaming world. World of Warcraft has dozens of realms you can choose from, with each realm running an instance of the gaming world. Players can interact with other players on their realm, but not those on other realms.

On EVE Online, all players exist in the same game realm in a "single shard" approach. Second Life uses a similar "grid" approach.

Steve Davis at the excellent Play No Evil blog is also interested in the scalability of the single shard approach, and has blogged some additional details gleaned from a conversation with a CCP developer at the Austin Game Conference.

EVE Online's growth has given IBM an opportunity to showcase its game hosting capabilities. "CCP has really innovated traditional MMOG design," said David Laux, IBM Global Executive, Games & Interactive Entertainment. "IBM is proud to provide the powerful technology that will bring new excitement to the EVE community and help CCP continue to be successful."