Crytek: Aliens love Claranet managed networks

Claranet has worked with computer game developer Crytek for seven years developing a high-performance Managed Network infrastructure linking Crytek's various offices worldwide. The current network consists of a gigabit line partitioned into a Virtual Local Area Network, an MPLS Virtual Private Network and an IPSEC Virtual Private Network. Claranet and Crytek began their partnership with a classic network service which has developed with time, and in the process underpinned the growth of the business.

Introduction

Crytek was founded in 1999 in Coburg by Avni, Cevat and Faruk Yerli, and has since grown into one of the world’s leading independent games development studios. In 2006, with 100 employees, they relocated their head office to Frankfurt am Main; this office now has more than 300 employees from more than 40 countries. Crytek have more than 600 employees around the world. In addition to the head office the company also has subsidiary studios in Kiev, Budapest, Sofia, Nottingham and Seoul. According to the magazine Neon, the founders are among the "100 most important young Germans” in business. The company is continuously expanding, working with global players in the industry and is a member of the German Association of Computer Game Developers.

Cevat was developing his own games by the age of 12 using a Commodore 64 and a Schneider CPC 6128, then later with and for the Amiga. He turned his passion into a small company in 1999 and was joined by his two brothers. Their first production, the first-person shooter Far Cry, came on the market in April 2004 and enjoyed a successful reception, receiving a number of awards and selling more than 2.6 million copies worldwide.

The CryEngine development program was developed for Far Cry and is now in version three. When it was originally released it was considered the most technically advanced program in the world for the development of complex graphics and received special praise for its realistic depiction of alien worlds. Later, Crytek worked with the game publisher Electronic Arts to develop the Crysis first-person shooter at a cost of 15 million Euros, making it the most expensive computer game developed in Germany at that time. Crytek used artificial intelligence to achieve a highly sophisticated level of character reactivity in the game. The aliens depicted in Crysis are considered particularly "intelligent" compared to characters in similar games.

The challenge

Reliability and security are paramount

Crytek started working with Claranet before they moved from Coburg to Frankfurt am Main. This partnership began with a classic network service and the installation of an SDSL 4 Mbit line. As a company in the technically demanding computer-game industry, Crytek require a reliable connection and complete security for transmission of sensitive data packets between development sites and associate companies.

A fast-growing company structure

The realistic graphical depiction of alien worlds places huge demand on computing resources, while the work required during the production stage is comparable with the time spent creating a Hollywood blockbuster. In order to sustain Crytek’s expansion and success in producing award-winning games it is crucial new sites are swiftly integrated with the rest of their network infrastructure.

"The greatest challenge in this project was not the technical work but the on-going flexible adaptation to the fast-growing company structure and the corresponding implementation of efficient solutions for connecting the international locations explains Oliver Peters, account manager at Claranet.

Requirements for networking the locations during their development

  • 2005 move from Coburg to Frankfurt am Main (Employees 2010: 330)
  • 2006 subsidiary studio opened in Kiev, Ukraine (Employees 2010: 80)
  • 2007 subsidiary studio opened in Budapest, Hungary (Employees 2010: 70)
  • 2008 purchase of Black Sea Studios in Sofia, Bulgaria (Employees 2010: 50)
  • 2008 subsidiary studio opened in Seoul, Korea (Employees 2010: 20)
  • 2009 purchase of Free Radical Design in Nottingham, England (employees 2010: 80)

Crytek organisation diagram

The solution

Claranet have been gradually installing a high-performance network for communications between the various sites. The current network consists of a gigabit line divided into three tunnels. This gives Crytek a Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) for internet connections, a Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) VPN (Virtual Private Network) for internal communications and an IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) VPN for connecting the external partners. The routing information of the VLANs is logically completely separate with virtual routing and forwarding (VRF), so secure packages from the MPLS VPN cannot accidentally enter the "internet tunnel.”

The Nottingham, Sofia and Budapest sites are linked to the Frankfurt head office by MPLS VPN at 100 Mbps. Multiprotocol Label Switching allows connection-oriented transmission of data packets in a connectionless network along a previously established "signalled" path. This is a transmission protocol that is primarily used by operators of large transmission networks offering IP-based voice and data services.

In Nottingham the 100 Mbps link is subdivided into two VLANs, which are used for connection to the internet and for connection to the MPLS VPN for internal communications between the sites. Kiev and Seoul are connected to the Frankfurt head office by the IPsec VPN. External partners, such as marketers, publishers, agencies and other service providers, are also linked by the IPsec VPN.

The Claranet computer centre in Frankfurt has a gigabit link to the Crytek network for provision of central services and test environments. Claranet guarantees round-the-clock service with network monitoring. Lines and routers are seamlessly monitored, any faults are corrected immediately and the customer is informed without delay.

The result

Claranet have created a system that has grown incrementally to meet the requirements of the customer. This culminated in 2010 with a comprehensive international network with a stable gigabit line divided into separate tunnels to guarantee high-performance data transfer to sites distributed throughout Europe and as far away as South Korea. Logical segmentation and throttling of data performance towards the internet ensures internal security. Prioritization of the internal MPLS traffic before internet traffic and the priority of voice packets over data packets guarantee the stability of internal communications. Claranet Traffic Management (CTM) uses an adapted configuration of the routers to manage the various services in the network. The private network for data connections between the sites is securely anchored in the Claranet backbone by modern MPLS and VRF technology and is secure against attacks from outside. The exclusive connection of controlled business customers to the backbone guarantees a stable and secure private network where bandwidth capacity isn't affected by other users.

"The Crytek network is not a static structure, but more analogous to a living organism," says account manager Oliver Peters from Claranet. "It develops itself and is highly dynamic. That means that we are continuously juggling bandwidths and connections to avoid dropping the ball. Our well-developed, confidential and successful relationship with Crytek is of great assistance to us.”

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