I have to talk to Blizzard.

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Okay, so I’m playing World of Warcraft again. I’m not entirely sure why, as the one that that I do not have, if there is only one thing that I do not have, is spare time.

Nonetheless, I’m back in Azeroth. Christina is playing along with me, and I’ve been connecting with my best friend and my brother as well, which is pretty neat. They’ve sped up leveling, the Draenei start area is well-written, and there is fun stuff to do.

But that’s not why I need to talk to Blizzard. I need to talk to them because I realized that (once again) my hobbies are relevant to my work. This week, Blizzard did some kind of service that required a realm outage. I don’t know how many boxes are required to run a realm, but there are more than 200 realms in North America alone. According to the outage notice, this was expected to take no more than an hour total and no more than 15 minutes per realm.

Again, I don’t know how many actual boxes make up a realm. But unless they’re crazy, they’re running some kind of high-availability setup, with a database tier and an application tier, and probably multiple actual boxes in each. Whatever they’re doing, it requires the realm to go offline – something is getting restarted or swapped. So there’s a moderately complex, secure set of boxes that’s going to become briefly unusable and then return to usability. And they’re going to do this 200 times within an hour. That’s a level of operational execution that is pretty darn amazing.

They also deal with content problems at a massive scale. They’re handling millions upon millions of unique digital assets (the stuff you find in the game, like weapons, armor and the like), each associated with specific characters. And they allow you to move entitlements to items between characters and even between accounts in real time. This is an interesting parallel to some of the things I am thinking about at work right now, like how to handle millions of digital assets.

So I need to talk to Blizzard. Anyone got an idea where to start? I don’t want to talk to the game designers (okay, I do, but not professionally). I want to talk to their technology team.

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