Pokemon Go – could cascade down provisioning have saved the day?

A satellite beaming down to a smart phone, which has a map on the screen.

Posted on Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Although the Pokemon Go app is squarely aimed at consumers, its instant global success has a number of lessons for enterprise-class organisations. Niantic Labs, who produced the game for Nintendo, may have scored a smash hit – but there were several serious problems that could have ruined the app from the outset.

Unprepared for exceptional demand

Upon release, Pokemon Go went viral – millions of players across the world downloaded the app from iTunes or Google Play, and set to work registering their accounts. The unprecedented level of demand was too much for Niantic Labs’ back end systems, leaving many would-be users unable to register.

As might be expected, outages quickly led to complaints from disgruntled users who were unable to connect.

Pokemon Go is cloud-based – isn’t it?

Being a web-enabled app that relies on Google Maps to provide location-aware gaming, it would make sense that the rest of the system was based in the cloud. But a true cloud-based solution would have scaled automatically to cope with a surge in demand. On demand resourcing would have prevented the sign-up process from crashing, locking users out of the platform.

Evidently Niantic Labs are keeping key aspects of the Pokemon Go service running on their own infrastructure. Which is somewhat unusual for a business that is part of the Alphabet family.

Despite sustained demand, Niantic has chosen to stick with the current set-up. This has seen many users banned for using unauthorized third party apps that make additional demand on the IT infrastructure for instance.

Why does this matter?

Pokemon Go is clearly an unexpectedly large success, catching Niantic off guard. Any business that finds itself in a similar situation will also struggle to provide adequate infrastructure. Even if the new app or service begins generating revenue instantly, costly capital investment could quickly wipe out profits.

More cost-effective is the use of a cascade down IT provisioning strategy to provide additional capacity. In this way older, post warranty hardware can be redeployed to provide much-needed overflow capacity to cope with peaks in demand. Taking this approach also means that as interest tails off, your business is not left with a collection of costly, underused equipment.

Niantic Labs has been working on the Pokemon Go app for a considerable period of time. During this development phase, they should have been looking at ways to strengthen their infrastructure to counter exceptional demand. Which would also have allowed them to redeploy their own ageing in-house hardware to better cope with demand.

In the age of cloud scalability, a cascade down strategy may sound particularly unsexy. However, the ability to reuse existing assets, and to keep data in-house could be a crucial step towards running a popular service in a way that benefits your users and your business.

To learn more about cascade down IT deployments and what they mean for you, please get in touch.