Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When the Cat's Away...

Earthquake in Japan has provided for some unusual circumstances in the world of FFXI the past couple weeks. Namely, the lack of it. SE shut the servers down by request of their power company while they worked to deal with the ongoing nuclear matters to their north.

For me, that decision was a no-brainer. Do your social duty to your fell countrymen in the face of one of the worst disasters to ever happen on the planet, let alone Japan. As a result of the service being interrupted for an undetermined amount of time (despite SE announcing today service would be restored on Friday), they've given us the entire month of April for free. I donated the $25 I would have normally spent to the Red Cross.

The forced break from FFXI has actually been refreshing to me in a lot of regards. It's felt rather nice to come home after working and not have to feel like I'm going to spend the next 3-4 hours catering to linkshell members by organizing events. I've managed to make a little bit of a dent in the pile of games I've had sitting around for a while as well. God of War II, God of War III and Bioshock have all been played through now (yes, I know they came out a long while ago...).

What hasn't been refreshing to me is the doom and gloom expressed by a number of people on various forums regarding FFXI. I expected a few asshats to complain about the servers going down, but the sheer number of threads that have opened up on the new official forums about it and the number of semi-flippant remarks on other community forums is just absurd.

SE getting compared to Blizzard seems to be one of the more common complaints. Blizzard has a number of data centers around the world. Not many people have looked at the math involved in it though. For starters, Blizzard has 10 data centers to support it's 10+ million user playerbase. That's approximately 1 data center for every 1 million users.

SE hasn't had more than 500k users for at least half a decade, so why someone would think SE would have the money and time invested in a second data center is absurd. If one is going to use Blizzard's set up as the standard, one likely needs to do a lot more research into the cost and maintenance of a data center located on a different continent. It ain't cheap.

Again, assuming Blizzard's set up is the "gold standard", here are some other ridiculous numbers to think about from that article.

- 10 Data Centers on 3 Continents.
- 4 in the USA, 3 in Europe, 3 in Asian regions.
- 20,000 Systems
- 13,500 Server Blades
- 1.3 PETAbytes of storage. Note that is the level above Terabyte. Also note, most of your standard home PCs come equipped with 1-2TB of storage if you want an accurate idea of just how much space that actually is.
- 75,000 CPU cores. (Which means a lot of their "20,000 systems" are likely dual or quad core CPUs)
- 112 Terabytes of RAM. 100x more RAM than most home PC's have in hard drive space.

And that's Blizzard as of that article's 2009 publishing. SE's playerbase is 5% of that. I can bet you a year's salary as WoW's membership numbers fall (and they will eventually), those data centers will be shut down. As far as I know, SE's userbase never really exceeded a million users and thus, never really required the use of more than one data center. I can also guarantee you Blizzard didn't set up 10 data centers at the onset of WoW being published.

Here's another article to shed some more light on what data centers actually cost to build and maintain. Feel free to click on some of the links to further educate yourselves on the matter.

Bottom line is this.

SE's decision to shut down the servers was forced. People don't typically build their business infrastructure models around the notion a huge natural disaster will occur on the scale of the one that hit Japan. Aside from hardware maint. and updates, this is the first time in EIGHT years of service this has happened. It took a 8.9-9.0 Earthquake (only 5 have occurred that high since they started recording earthquake strength), a Tsunami that literally wiped entire cities off the map and an ongoing nuclear crisis to make that happen. I mean seriously...that's about a step short of the second coming of Christ on the "What could shut us down for a while" scale.

On top of that, I haven't found any other example of this happening elsewhere to any other MMO except during WoW's beta testing phase when a tornado directly hit the Virginia Data Center.

Crying about it happening is just completely selfish. Crying about SE not having a backup data center is just ignorant as the costs simply aren't met with SE's current subscription base. People suggesting the playerbase will suffer because SE didn't have a backup server in place might be right as MMO's generally work on addicting players to content, but I'd suggest anyone who actually quits FFXI over all the stuff going on in Japan...good riddance.

Qtipus' Information

FFXI subscriber since NA release.