Minecraft, Hostway and our grand adventure

If you have been hanging around Neowin for the past few weeks, you will know that we recently launched our official Minecraft server with our friends over at Hostway. We were hoping our community would respond and build epic creations in our friendly environments and we have been blown away by your response and dedication to our server.

Our server started out as a small group of users but has quickly exploded with more than 250 registered users, which actually far exceeded our expectations of how the community would respond.

The response was large enough, in fact, that we had to ping Hostway to up the specs on our sever to help us adapt to the load. Fortunately, Hostway was cool with this and was able to do it in near real-time so that there was no disruption to our end users and the ability to scale the service as needed was a big plus for us as demand has been all over the board. If we needed to be able to scale-up, or down, as needed to keep you all digging and building, it was quite easy to adjust our setup.

If you are wondering why we didn’t opt for a beefier server upfront, it’s because load is an unknown variable. Like many other services on the web, Minecraft has a varying rate of input based on the amount of users hitting the server. To be frank, the Neowin community jumped to the server faster than we were anticipating, which lead to us calling up Hostway to help us boost our backend to keep the operation running smoothly. It was this unanticipated growth from our small setup to public availability that caught us off-guard, but fortunately, we (and Hostway) were able to react quick enough so that there was no disruption in the service.

We started with a small group of users of about 20 or so and allowed them to dig into our world. It’s important to note that when a user logs in, it’s not for a short period of time. An average session of Minecraft goes for well over an hour, so it’s quite common to have multiple users hitting the server at any one moment.  After expending our initial load server tests, we opened the doors to all of our readers and the response was incredible.

To date, we have nearly 300 registered users digging and building in our environment, with our map size approaching the 2GB mark. The pounding on the server has been consistent with dozens of users having been logged into the site at any given time, but fret not, the server has been golden since our trial begin.

The entire purpose of the Minecraft server trial was to get a feel for how Hostway could handle our needs, requests, and quite frankly, our demands.

As we went down the road on this case study, we learned more about how Hostway operates, as well as how partners can utilize their services.

Hostway wanted to know how we thought the company could highlight the fact that their services are business ready and has the ability to scale as needed. Seeing that we wanted to test the platform with variable rate traffic but also sustained user connections, Minecraft became our go-to test.

Sure, it’s not a DDOS attack the servers but if you think about it, it does replicate the common e-commerce and business based scenarios in the real world.

Think of it this way: In the real world, you don’t know what your traffic will be, when demand will spike, and what consistent load you will be servicing. Sure you can estimate, but peaks and troughs can come with a well-placed link on a popular site and you need your site to be ready to handle the load.

This is how we designed our Minecraft server with the small scale testing (limited user access) and then scaling up with allowing several hundred users to log in concurrently to test the load of the game.

Our scalability and use of the server met all of our expectations for what we would expect out of a hosting provider. Hostway’s services met the demands and needs of our Minecraft server and when we needed to augment services on the fly, Hostway was able to handle our needs and make sure that our server was operational during all hours of the day.

In short, Hostway’s services met our needs and could scale as would expect out a modern hosting service. Our Minecraft server, much like your website or e-commerce platform, performed exceptionally well on the host platform and easily met our expectations for a hosting partner.

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