A visit to the Angry Birds store in the Amazon cloud

A Well-Feathered Nest

Article from Issue 153/2013

Thanks to the scalability of Amazon's web services, the Angry Birds shop and its databases do not fail even when visited by a teaming mass of bird lovers.

Rovio became known in 2009 with a small game that first appeared as a smartphone app. In the game, angry birds cause buildings to collapse with full wing power. Today, the Finnish company mainly generates revenue with T-shirts, cuddly toys, and key rings. Up to a million users a day visit the Angry Birds store in the cloud. At peak times, 5,000 visitors might be online at the same time, and the system processes multiple orders per second.

Rovio relies on Magento, an open source application for e-commerce, and combines it with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to operate the shop economically in quieter times. Rovio's Magento universe consists of the store with front ends for Europe, Asia, and America.

Integration to an external system exists to global warehouse management, shipping, a DRM server for licensing games, an email and gift card service, and the payment service Braintree.

Always Like New

Many online store owners can calculate the load on their systems fairly easily, but the Rovio store must be prepared for a very high volume of visitors when new products appear or a new ad campaign begins.

At the beginning of the project, Rovio, in collaboration with AOE media, decided to run the Angry Birds store in the form of agile software development and to add new releases constantly – a practice known as continuous deployment. Each element is treated as a software project and tested both automatically and manually; after each change, the system rebuilds the website completely from scratch.

Continuous deployment requires a sophisticated system for automatic quality assurance and rollout. It also needs to be capable of migrating new functions, modules, templates, and layout changes from test to production systems within minutes.

Rapid Testing

In the case of Rovio, the developers retrieve the current version on the site from system storage before starting work. Changes to the website flow back into backup storage. The modified site is then merged with the site operators' images and texts, which are waiting in backup storage.

After the first unit tests, the developers install the site on the "Latest System" where further tests follow (Figure 1). The site is then pushed to a staging server in the S3 cloud and, after final integration tests, ends up on the production system. All builds of the website, whether automatic or manually supported, are handled by the free Continuous Integration Server, Jenkins CI [1].

Figure 1: Using an automated test and build system, Rovio changes and tests its store before pushing it into the cloud.

AWS at Your Service

The entire Angry Birds store infrastructure is virtualized on Amazon's Web Services. At the touch of a button, AWS provides databases (MySQL, Oracle, MS SQL Server) in different versions and also offers the option of automatically merging upgrades to minor versions.

The capacity of the database server can be flexibly modified after setup, although this causes downtime – it takes about 10 minutes to get a new database instance up and running. At the press of a button, snapshots can be created, from which the operators can generate new databases as needed.

At the same time, Amazon permanently creates backups of the latest versions. Restore point in time lets you revert to earlier states. The company also guarantees high redundancy and availability, configurability of the Security Group [2] for hardening the database against external access, and a guaranteed number of I/O operations per second (provisioned IOPS). This setup provides a very good basis for a fully virtualized web store. CloudWatch [3], the integrated monitoring tool provides a comprehensive overview of the state of the system at any time.

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