Case Study

Munzee gets expert sysadmin pointers, simple pricing, continual uptime, and doubled capacity through Linode Professional Services

Munzee is a free, worldwide 21st-century scavenger hunt game for mobile devices (iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone). Co-founders and friends Aaron Benzick, Scott Foster, Chris Pick and Josh Terkelsen envisioned a global game where players could use a mobile device to record the QR codes on planted poker chips found around the world.

In less than three years, Munzee has been played in more than 180 countries by nearly 200,000 players. At least one physical munzee (an alteration of the German word for coin, munze) has been placed on every continent of the world, including Antarctica, awaiting capture by players. Virtual tokens are placed anywhere by computer. When a player finds (i.e., captures) a munzee, she earns points. Those points can be tracked on a leaderboard and/or traded for badges. However, as its website says, "There is so much more to Munzee."

The company's purpose is to perpetuate a free and fun game for everyone. Scott Foster, now VP of Technology, graciously responded by email to this case study request.

Challenge

Even minimal downtime for more than 100,000 daily captures could not be tolerated.
Pricing surprises, like those found subscribed to RackSpace, were not acceptable.
Timely, weekday site migration from RackSpace servers was mission critical because majority of players participated on weekends.

Solution

Hire Linode's Professional Services team to perform one-off system administration tasks and advise on best practices for optimum system performance.

Results

Downtime reduced to virtually zero.
Monthly, hourly pricing plans are consistent and affordable.
More than half a million captures from 200-plus players handled without a single problem.

"Every time I called Linode with a question, anybody I talked to was able to answer the question with ease. Once we decided to go with Linode, Professional Services made things so simple." Scott Foster, Munzee VP Technology

Situation:

As a 24/7-365 online, global gaming diversion, Munzee has stored every capture since its 2011 launch in its inexpertly configured database. Seat-of-the-pants scaling built a functional but far from optimal platform, which hosted apps like Memcache, MongoDB, and IronMQ. Munzee has evolved from a single server handling growing traffic to scores of servers processing tens-of-thousands requests. As this online traffic grew, Foster and his crew identified a critical need for professional experience to help them determine adequate server allocation, identify sysadmin tasks contingent upon each server, and balance loads between servers.

Challenge:

For its first two years of existence, Munzee operated on RackSpace infrastructure. This experience put into stark relief the criteria a cloud host must exceed to capably serve the Munzee's round-the-clock, global, tech-savvy market.

Foster clarified the first, "We set the bar very high in that we told Linode that downtime has to be kept to a minimum."

With a frequent global audience of tens of thousands uploading more than 100,000 captures even on a slow day, any extended downtime would demoralize players, stifle fun, jeopardize Munzee's reputation, and seriously affect its bottom line. Downtime couldn't be tolerated. Pricing needed to be simplified and predictable. With RackSpace, monthly bills could surprise Munzee bean counters, exceeding allocations. Linode's hourly billing, where customers pay only for the resources used each month, piqued Munzee's interest.

Finally, if Munzee were to migrate from RackSpace to Linode, it had to be done during the week, its slowest times, and not during the weekend, when most players are online.

Solution:

Linode's Professional Services team has enabled Munzee to easily accommodate more than 30 million captures since 2011. The team has advised Foster on best practices for virtual server maintenance.

Results:

"I compared DigitalOcean, SoftLayer, and Linode," explained Foster, "and Linode was by far the best as far as [meeting our] criteria."

Linode's Professional Services would handle Munzee's free site migrations on any weekday. Its customer support staff answered Foster questions promptly and thoroughly. "Every time I called Linode with a question," said Foster, "anybody I talked to was able to answer the question with ease."

Munzee chose Linode and subsequently forwarded to a long checklist of tasks it needed its servers to be capable of doing. Professional Services fulfilled that list. "They made things so simple," said Foster. "Everything was perfect once all the servers were setup."

Munzee has been able to easily accommodate more than 30,000,000 total captures since 2011

Foster made it a point to compliment individuals on the Professional Service team. Describing their efforts as "above and beyond on everything," Foster appreciated the help. Professional Services "would advise me if there was a better way to do things or call me if it was easier to talk on the phone. Anytime I open a ticket, I get a response within five minutes, even if it's a "looking into it" which is great. I don't have to wait until the morning for a response."

Munzee has seen its player numbers mushroom since its migration to Linode. Thrilled that he no longer has to worry about server availability, Foster and the team focus on gameplay. This past September 25 – 28, more than 200 players descended on Munzee's McKinney, Texas headquarters. In a 24-hour stretch, Munzee handled over half a million captures without any (zero!) problems. As head of technology, Foster also "loves the fact” that he can still scale Munzee's servers on his own, if necessary or desired, knowing full well that Professional Services is behind him, if he should need assistance.

"We have been so happy with the results," Foster states simply.

"Now, I can sleep at night and not have to worry about the servers going down, and if they do - I will have knowledgeable and friendly people looking into it," summarized Foster about his Linode experience.

"We have seen a lot of growth due to the reliability and the optimization that Linode has done."