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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

Supercell is all-in on AWS, rejecting multi-cloud approach

Supercell, the mobile games developer behind Clash of Clans, Hay Day and Clash Royale, is staying all-in with its cloud provider Amazon Web Services (AWS), and does not see the need to prepare for a multi-cloud future, according to the company’s services lead Heikki Verta.

The company has seen huge success with its games, most notably Clash of Clans which in 2015 was the top grossing app on both the App Store and Google Play, with an estimated revenue of $1.5m per day, and three years later it was the highest revenue generating app in the App Store, earning a total of about $6bn.

The company, which has 250 employees, with teams of about 20 people working on specific games, had used AWS since it was founded in 2010.

“Of those 20 people only three are server developers and they have to set up and maintain infrastructure and develop the game. We like to keep our teams small as it helps us with agility, speed and makes it less of a hierarchy, with less processes and controls meaning we can operate more swiftly,” says Verta.

“As we don’t have that many people, we want to offload the operations aspect of running the games to AWS, and that’s why leasing the servers from AWS is very beneficial; if we would have to set up all of the racks ourselves we would need a lot of people to do it. Instead, we can focus on what we believe is our core business, which is gaming and leave the data centre business to AWS,” he adds.

That means everything runs in the cloud; all of the company’s games, right through to its disaster recovery controls. As well as saving time and money as a result, Verta says a huge reason for using AWS was the cloud provider’s scale and continued investment.

“We can operate our games pretty much globally and benefit from the continued investment that AWS makes. As a small company it’s something we wouldn’t have the resources to do, so seeing Amazon invest in the platform is definitely a plus compared to setting up your own data centre and then having to procure all of it, manage it and update it, because what is state-of-the-art now won’t be in the future,” he says.

Supercell initially used EC2 instances from AWS, and then added DynamoDB, and started to use Aurora, the managed MySQL database. On the analytics side, the company uses a lot of S3, Kinesis and EMR, which is the host of the Hadoop big data platform. The company is also making use of machine learning.

“For users who like certain characters or resources in our games, we might give them an offer to purchase these in the same way you have Amazon recommendations,” Verta explains.

Now, the company uses all of AWS’s managed services, but while many organisations are now leaning towards making themselves “cloud agnostic” and embracing a multi-cloud approach, therefore yielding the benefits of various different cloud services, Verta does not think it is worth preparing for a future of using other vendors such as Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform.

“Of course we look around but we are quite committed to AWS. We don’t try to optimise our services so that we can take the common denominator of all the cloud providers and only use that so we can quickly change. We are pretty much all-in on AWS and if the time comes that we need something from a different provider we will cross that bridge then instead of preparing and taking the extra complexity and resources upfront for something you don’t know is going to happen,” he says.

This is mainly because Supercell wants to stay small and keep its environment as simple as possible. The added complexity of gearing up for a multi-cloud environment can mean organisations require additional resources.

“Our people would then have to know all of the different cloud providers and how to operate them,” says Verta.