Friday Feature 6/23/2017 – Server Hardware

Empire in Flames had a bit of a rocky start. Not because of stability issues (though we’ve experienced a few) or the like, but because of the limits of our hardware.

We had expected to take three to four months to grow to a population of 100 online concurrent characters. We exceeded that in the first week, peaking at around 150. Unfortunately, our server hardware wasn’t up to snuff.

The launch server was an old Dell PowerEdge 2950, sporting two quad-core processors, a RAID array of 136 GB 10k RPM drives, and 32 GB of RAM. At heaviest usage, the server hit around 40% utilization of processing…which quickly became an issue.

While the server had plenty of hypothetical headroom, the reality was that we were past what could provide a smooth experience.

To grossly simplify, the server needed to process updates for each player (and from each player!) on a regular basis. As the number of players grew, the server needed more time to process each and every character before it could start over at the top of the list. In the meantime, action continues to happen; the server predicts where a player will be, and if the player character is too far off from that predicted location they get rubberbanded. With the greater delay time, it’s also more likely for the server to miss something important, like a character mounting a speeder – and doesn’t catch it until the player attempts a dismount. In several instances, players could rubberband for kilometers because of that particular scenario.

This morning, we executed a migration, taking us from the very old Dell PowerEdge 2950 to a moderately old Dell PowerEdge R810 sporting four 10-core, hyperthreaded processors (for a total of 80 logical cores), 128 GB of RAM, and a RAID of 146k GB 15k RPM hard drives. Moving forward, we would like to replace the mechanical drives with solid-state drives for better read/write performance, but we’ll be patient while waiting to raise the funds necessary.

In the meantime, with the new hardware, we’ve been able to push draw distances out much further (from 192 meters to 320) while maintaining a far smoother experience. The additional processing power also means the complicated scripting necessary for the upcoming Galactic Civil War system will not be a hindrance.

Expect more news on the upcoming client patch, content additions, and the Galactic Civil War soon!

Leave a Reply