There is always time for fun.

Chef + iWin = creating a great place to play. Chef Increases Automation and Scalability for Leading Social Games Business.
"With Chef we are in a better position to scale our organization quickly, which allows us to offer our customers reliable access to our popular social games. Getting on board with Chef was one of the best things that we did." Shadow Roldan, Director of Technical Operations

The Challenge

iWin, Inc. is a leading casual and social games creator, distributor and publisher for the mass market. iWin.com is one of the leading casual game portals, reaching and interacting with millions of visitors and gamers both domestically and internationally every month. With its current operations team, iWin needed a faster, more efficient configuration management engine that offered repeatability and accuracy to help automate its infrastructure and related management processes, and reduce the need for time- consuming costly manual updating.

The Solution

iWin engaged Chef to help migrate the company to Chef, enabling iWin to achieve a more managed, scalable and increasingly automated infrastructure. The result was not only faster and easier configuration, but fully automated monitoring of graphing, statistical trending and log analysis information for a new class of systems. Achieving automation ultimately provided additional scalability for iWin's social games business, eliminated the need for costly manual labor and reduced errors.

The Results

  • Realized increased flexible scalability for social games division.
  • Significantly reduced time spent on infrastructure maintenance tasks and errors.
  • Achieved a fully automated, virtualized infrastructure.

iWin's Recipe for Success

iWin.com is one of the leading casual game portals, reaching and interacting with millions of global visitors and gamers every month. In addition to its PC download, retail, and mobile businesses, iWin develops and publishes games on Facebook including Family Feud, which has consistently been Facebook’s number one TV game show application.

Though iWin employs a relatively small operations team, its infrastructure was limited to a collection of legacy application and backend database systems supporting a well-established e-commerce business. Facing an upcoming large-scale project leveraging a legacy operating infrastructure, the operations team hit a crossroads.

"The sheer amount of labor involved for the project was simply unmanageable," says Shadow Roldan, iWin’s Director of Technical Operations. "We were in a position where we would have had to manually configure and update our entire infrastructure, which would have put our customers at risk of not being able to access our latest games."

iWin engaged Chef to deploy a solution that would help them achieve scalability for its social games business and keep them operating smoothly and seamlessly, while improving overall service and system management. Realistically, iWin needed to push itself into a more automated state, scale more quickly and easily, and operate with more agility.

iWin determined that the best solution was to have Chef perform a full systems migration to Chef. Once the infrastructure was migrated and more smoothly managed, iWin was able to fully automate monitoring of several key applications including alerting, graphing statistical trends and log analysis enterprise-wide. This new functionality helped eliminate the need for manual configuration, which eats time and can lead to errors. "We spent time consulting with Chef to develop the cook books that allowed us to skip all that manual labor," says Roldan. "Instead of putting in all that work multiple times, and then have more manual steps to implement again in the future, we were left with an automated package that will allow us to continually scale without putting in more time. Chef has allowed us to do more with less."

iWin selected Chef’s Chef, which is based on the non-proprietary Ruby DSL (domain specific language), over other industry solutions for several compelling reasons. "Instead of learning a proprietary new language that would only be good for the lifetime of the product, Learning standard Ruby was going to be beneficial to everyone on the team, this added a lot of value to the overall selection of Chef as a technology platform," said Roldan.

Deployment and migration went smoothly. The results have helped iWin move from a four-to-six hour server deployment time to 20 minutes. Additionally, adds Roldan, "Using Chef, we were provided with a whole new toolset to do data-driven commands and data-driven queries. Knife is quite simply fantastic."

iWin is actively pushing into multiple data centers and implementing cloud hybrid solutions to complement its current virtual and physical servers. "We evaluated solutions that would allow us the flexibility of non vendor specific cloud automation" says Roldan. "Because of Chef’s cloud infrastructure support, it gave us the ability to take the work we are currently doing and implement it directly in the cloud."

They have also migrated a large amount of legacy development and staging environments to become fully managed using Chef. "Chef has helped us through a period of time when we were deploying a lot of new application stacks and on top of that deploying new operating system stacks. By providing additional automation layers it made that transition smooth and gave us an easy path to do upgrades further down the line."

Concludes Roldan, "Whenever we spin up a new system with two or three short commands, we’re going to know that it is monitored properly, has all of its statistical trends gathered correctly, all of its logs are going to the right place and the right application stack is installed and configured correctly. We are leaps and bounds ahead and in a better place today than we were a year ago and that is a huge win for iWin. Getting on board with Chef was one of the best things that we did."