Dreamhack and the Art of Cloud Making

Tuesday, December 3 2013


Dreamhack isn’t just your ordinary, everyday gaming meet in the middle of the Swedish pine forests. It is a twice-yearly opportunity for gamers to connect faces with aliases and take part in a soft drink fuelled cyber-battle of epic proportions. At Dreamhack, a gamer’s workspace is his castle (in some cases quite literally) and a lot of thought goes into creating the perfect environment for the 4 day event. A symbiosis of building yard paraphernalia (including ladders, sheet metal and timber) and outlandishly modded computer hardware combine to reproduce a myriad of bedroom battlegrounds, all under the same roof.

While physical proximity at the event may be an unusual change to the distended but highly connected world of the online gamer, there are vast numbers of players, spectators and fans across the world who want to take part, without actually being there. Anywhereizing the event is no mean feat and providing up to 9000 workstations with at least 200 watts of power and a low latency 100Mb/s+ connection to rest of the world (and the rest of the world to them), takes some serious planning and a whole lot of network.
The array of flashing routers and swathes of CAT5 cable across the hall are carried from Jönköping to Stockholm along 1040km of optical fiber (on diverse paths) and then into the TeliaSonera International Carrier IP backbone where they are connected almost instantaneously with the rest of the Internet. The network infrastructure for the event is rolled-out in only 5 days which is impressive for what is effectively a small metropolitan network. In fact the total IP capacity provisioned for the event itself (up to 120Gb/s) probably exceeds that of some countries.

Ironically, just as Dreamhack is a physical manifestation of a virtual gaming world, the network cloud at the event has been known to create real clouds inside the main hall. All that power, all those people and all that adrenalin create a lot of heat. At one of the recent summer events, the heat and moisture built up to such an extent that not only did a thin veil of cloud appear near the roof but it actually started to rain.

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