Despite the merger and integration activity that must be ramping up, normal life goes on for Level 3 Communications (NYSE:LVLT, news, filings)‘s content delivery business. Today they announced a new product offering aimed squarely at the gaming marketplace as well as a key customer win with Belarus-based online games developer Wargaming.net. Level 3 has been helping Wargaming.net expand its World of Tanks massively multiplayer game from Russia into Europe and America, now approaching subscribers of 5 million. To get a feel for the scale of this sort of thing, traffic for a recent patch peaked at nearly 70Gbps.
The new product is called ‘Bandwidth Optimizer’, and tightly binds the company’s CDN and transit offerings for the gaming sector. When gaming companies buy bandwidth, they have two major situations that they must handle. There is the delivery of the software and periodic patches, which is very bursty and unpredictable and suited to highly scalable CDN services, and then there is the actual gameplay which is a two way, latency sensitive, uncacheable type of traffic served best by IP transit. With its new product, Level 3 is trying to optimize their offering for both needs in a way that lets gaming providers better match their bandwidth commits to their actual needs. Releasing a new game is a hit or miss activity, and if you have to guess the bandwidth in advance as well the risks tend to pile up.
This binding of HSIP and CDN services has been very effective for Level 3 in its pursuit of market share in the gaming sector. So effective in fact that I’ve been surprised that there has been little organized response from the likes of Akamai and Limelight, which of course has no network to bundle with its CDN offering but could partner itself part of the way there. Such dual needs by massively multiplayer gaming operators seem rather unlikely to go away, which underscores why I feel that CDN functionality is becoming less of a standalone product overall.