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Nexon goes global with Azure cloud infrastructure

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In 2020, gaming giant Nexon became the first Korean game publisher to be worth $30 billion. This success is partly due to Nexon's decision to use Microsoft Azure in 2018. Cloud technology has enabled the gaming company to scale rapidly, expanding its services across the globe. Today, Nexon is reaping the benefits of high availability, scalability, and agility of the Microsoft Azure cloud. Having left operational complexity behind, it looks forward to a bright future. Hear from Nexon about their journey with Azure.

​Local pioneer to global giant
South Korean venture companies started developing PC games in the 1990s. Nexon, one of the rising gaming companies, dazzled Korean gamers with its massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds. Fifteen years later, Guinness World Records recognized Nexus as the longest-running commercial graphical MMORPG. 

Nexon's success brought a paradigm shift in gaming—instead of being limited to selling stand-alone products, gaming evolved into a service-based offer with a continuing revenue model. By 2020, Nexon is at the forefront of the Korean gaming industry. Gamers around the world favor many of the giant's nearly 50 titles, which are available in more than 190 countries. 

This global expansion revealed Nexon's need for a cloud service. "Games have gotten even more advanced and technically demanding," says JaeBeom Cho, Game Infrastructure lead at Nexon. "We had to make sure services run smoothly even with a sudden increase of gamers. These are not just small surges; sometimes we see increases from tens to millions simultaneously. This led us to adopt cloud services to help respond to any potential incidents more rapidly. Time is a critical element in an extremely fast-paced gaming service environment." 

Path to multi-cloud success
Nexon moved from a single cloud to a multi-cloud strategy in 2018, to provide its worldwide gamers the best possible service. "We used to have just one single cloud provider, and was its largest customer in Korea," says the head of Infrastructure Team, Technology Department at Nexon, Chunghoon Ryu. "But it was not efficient enough to manage incidents." 

In order to power up operational resilience, Nexon opted to adopt Microsoft Azure and leverage multiple clouds. "Life is short for mobile games," Chunghoon Ryu explains. "At a game's lifetime peak, millions of gamers participate simultaneously. It is essential to provide robust services regardless of the number of users. Microsoft Azure provides huge agility by flexibly deploying the workload. The services perfectly meet the dynamic life cycle of mobile games." 

Creating a multi-cloud environment is not a straightforward exercise. Only a few IT teams have the expertise in managing a mixed deployment that Nexon wanted. To fill this gap, the gaming company brought in Zenith & Company, an independent software vendor and layered service provider. Zenith made the transition easy and simple, with no downtime that could hinder Nexon's operations.

Nexon is also able to  overcome the complexity of database operations. "Mobile games usually require powerful database systems to power intensive activity on the mobile device," says Chunghoon Ryu. "Additionally, running multiple games simultaneously complicates the job of those sitting in the mobile division. Database and infrastructure management were challenging, even on a light day. Microsoft Azure SQL database gives us network stability and high resource availability, giving our people fewer things to worry about. They can now focus on innovation rather than operation." 

This approach also led to cost efficiency for Nexon. "We do not have to invest in in-house high-end devices to run graphically demanding mobile games for only short periods of peak demand," Chunghoon Ryu adds. "We simply pay for what we need because the service automatically adapts to the load."

Best gaming service continues
The shift to a multi-cloud environment came just in time. As people spent more time indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gaming industry faced a significant increase in user demand. This meant more work for Nexon's employees, who were also restricted to their homes. The gaming giant transitioned to remote working with Microsoft 365, which was in place even prior to lockdown.

"Employees started using Microsoft online tools for easy email management and productive collaboration," shares Chunghoon Ryu. "All of our 6,150 workers today are using Microsoft 365 E5. We switched from just Exchange online and Microsoft Teams to E5 because of E5's advanced security features. As you can imagine, cybersecurity is very important to gaming companies." 

Prior to adopting E5, Nexon had to run fragmented and multiple security solutions to keep cybersecurity threats at bay. Now, the company relies mostly on Microsoft's built-in security features for online collaboration activities. Nexon plans to implement full features of E5 with Microsoft Intune, Microsoft Defender for Identity (former: Microsoft Azure ATP) and Microsoft Cloud App Security by the end of 2021. "Microsoft 365 E5 was key in enabling us to quickly move to work from home and to strengthen the security of our virtual work environment," Chunghoon Ryu concludes. "Work was not just easier, it became more secure."

"Microsoft Azure SQL database gives us good network stability and high resource availability, giving our people fewer things to worry about. They can now focus on innovation rather than operation." Chunghoon Ryu: Head of Infrastructure Team, Technology Department, Nexon

 

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