Pokémon and Kubernetes: How are they connected?

Cloud Datastore Transactions Per Second for Pokémon Go, shared by Google Cloud

Google Customer Reliability Engineering

Google introduced Customer Reliability Engineering (CRE), a new engagement model in which technical staff from Google integrates with customer teams, creating a shared responsibility for the reliability and success of critical cloud applications.

Google Cloud Technologies Involved

Pokémon Go was a container-based application and used many services across Google Cloud, but Cloud Datastore became a direct proxy for the game’s overall popularity given its role as the game’s primary database for capturing the Pokémon game world. The transactions per second surged to 50 times the initial target. The Google CRE Team seamlessly provisioned extra capacity on behalf of Niantic to stay well ahead of their record-setting growth. The Team worked hand-in-hand with Niantic to review every part of their architecture, tapping the expertise of core Google Cloud engineers and product managers — all against a backdrop of millions of new players pouring into the game. The application logic for the game runs on Google Container Engine (GKE) powered by the open-source Kubernetes project.

What and Why Kubernetes

Kubernetes is an open-source container-orchestration system for automating computer application deployment, scaling, and management. It was originally designed by Google and is now maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

How Kubernetes Benefitted in the Process

During the US launch, things did not unfold as expected and a lot of issues emerged around the game’s stability.

The Outcome

Improving upon the US launch, generous capacity provisioning, the architectural swap to the latest version of Container Engine powered by Kubernetes, along with the upgrade to the HTTP/S Load Balancer paid off when the game launched without any incidents in Japan, where the number of new users signing up to play tripled the US launch two weeks earlier.

Ending Notes

Niantic and Google Cloud — spanning CRE, SRE, development, product, support, and executive teams — collectively built Pokémon Go from the ground up. Without Google Cloud’s SRE team in place, I doubt if Pokémon Go would be as popular, even more than 5 years after its launch. One of the most widely played games of all time, the number of players are rising once again, especially now that people are able to start going outside post-pandemic. Who knew Pokémons would help Kubernetes grow?

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Aaishika S Bhattacharya

Aaishika S Bhattacharya

Jr. Developer Advocate @ DigitalOcean | GitHub Campus Expert & Stream Team | GDSC ‘22 & Hack Club Lead | Alexa Student Influencer | Ex- MLH Coach