Why Riak was the best candidate for knocking Angry Birds into order

Lucy Carey

JAXenter talks to Finnish games giant Rovio to find out why it chose to employ Basho’s scalable, open source NoSQL database.

What do you do when Angry Birds are
giving you issues? Well, if you’re creator Rovio, you smack them
into submission with a
NoSQL database.

Addressing scalability issues
without messing with the architecture of an application is a common
point of vexation, but there are solutions out there. Last month,
Basho Technologies
announced that it was partnering with the Finnish mobile game
to help them deal with
their growing user base.
While Rovio was unwilling to share exact numbers, we do know
that Angry Birds, the firm’s
signature creation, has been downloaded two billion times – that’s
the equivalent of over a quarter of the world’s

The company has implemented Riak, Basho’s
scalable, open source NoSQL database, to deal with newly
mushrooming data volumes stemming from a growing number of
operations. This influx of new data was primarily generated by a
new cartoon series, Angry Birds
, and new mobile video games.

According to Rovio, the sheer scale of the
systems that the company was running had rendered traditional SQL
databases untenable for the rapid operations they required. A
spokesperson for the company told JAXenter:
“Replication, high availability and scalability can be
achieved much more easily with NoSQL databases. Riak will scale up
easily without thinking of complicated sharing

Although there are a number of NoSQL options out
there, Riak was specifically chosen for the diverse set of use
cases it can support. It doesn’t lose data, so is suitable for
storing the payment data that the company makes from hardcore
gaming fans. Additionally, its horizontal scalability, ability to
support extremely large and dynamic data sets, and multi data
center deployments support with real-time data replication made it
a particularly good fit for the company, as well as the fact that
it can be operated on any public and private cloud.

Rovio admits that it had a few issues making the
switch from the DaaS solution it was
using prior to Riak on the operations front, but for the most part
the transition has been relatively painless.

When asked what they would have done differently
when making the move to NoSQL, Rovio told us, “We could have put
more attention to actual data access patterns beforehand. That
would have helped us to fine tune our database clusters and
finalize design for our data model early on.”

As well as adapting to the demands of a
burgeoning database (something that many a game maker can relate
to), the biggest technical issues facing Rovio developers to date
relate to the search and mass query capabilities of the database.
The company has used Riak’s secondary index searches so far, but
admits that they are somewhat limited in their use cases. However,
an upcoming release from Basho will provide Rovio with a new
feature for searching, and should help them to build more flexible
search mechanisms.

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