Discord has about 180 employees, from which a small team of four engineers specifically work on Discords voice and video service infrastructure. The main motivation to create Discord came from the need to make services that use real-time communication (WebRTC), like TeamSpeak and Skype, better. Mark Smith, Director of infrastructure is responsible for everything Discord does at the back end, ranging from cloud systems to voice and video systems, the software that Discord builds, and the hardware they use. He explains the challenges Discord had to face as a start-up:
“We wanted to be the best real-time communication app, but to do that, we had to be able to deliver low latency and high-quality audio services around the world. Since we were a start-up, we were not yet equipped to build up everything that is needed to develop this entire platform around the app by ourselves. We did not have the talent that understood how to build a network or how to maintain the hardware and power in data centers. In addition, we did not have the physical resources around the globe to make this happen. Besides, back in the days as a small start-up, we coped with a challenging timeframe, therefore we needed to find partners to make it happen.”
Discord highly values the experience their users have when using the app. A solid low-latency infrastructure is therefore essential. In order to provide this, Discord looks at the quality of service, when looking at different hosting providers.
“At Discord, we care a lot about the experience our users have when using our service. Wherever in the world, our users happen to be, they should always have the best experience when using the app. Therefore, we need a solid infrastructure in order to provide this quality to our users.”
i3D.net was not the first hosting provider Discord worked with. Over the years, Discord worked with several other companies that provided them with dedicated servers in different locations. Mark Smith explains that in the past, Discord bought services from many different companies because they had to keep up with the pace of their growth. In the past few years, they became more diligent in collecting data and statistics by monitoring the quality of the different networks they were using. They looked at the latency, packet loss, the Mean Opinion Score (MOS)*, the number of network outages, and how quickly users can reconnect to other servers.
Discord started out with 8 different providers and slowly narrowed it down. When looking for partners for hosting their voice and video traffic, they looked at the network infrastructure, the quality of the network, and the ability to partner up. i3D.net is now Discord’s primary WebRTC hosting provider.
“When talking to other companies, most conversations go through the salespeople or account managers. When you have a technical question, it is hard to directly get in touch with technical people. Sometimes they send you from department to department, by phone or email, this way you lose information. When working with i3D.net we directly get in touch with the departments we need. This allows us to solve problems quickly.”
The partnership with i3D.net began in 2017 and started out with just a couple of servers at a few locations. According to Mark Smith, what sets i3D.net apart from other hosting providers is the quality of the privately-owned network that is connected through the largest carriers and internet exchanges in the world.
“Over time, we noticed that the user experience on i3D.net’s servers was better than on the servers from other providers we had been working with. Besides, we also looked at this partnership from a corporate perspective. i3D.net has full control and ownership over its network and servers. This allows them to respond quickly and accurately to fix any issue that might come up. The entire ecosystem built by i3D.net, including their network and dedicated servers and their help with designing the use case, was exactly what we needed. Other partners we tried to work with, were not able to do so. They either resold network capacity, or they did not have the in-house expertise to build a network effectively based on our needs. In the entire process, i3D.net was very adaptive to Discords’ needs. We also appreciate the feedback the Network team has been giving us when we were looking for a network solution that fits us.”
According to Bart Kemps, CCO at i3D.net, the privately-owned network of i3D.net and global presence in many data centers across the globe make it possible to offer a low-latency network infrastructure with no downtime to fit Discords’ needs. It is that combination that results in an excellent quality of service for Discords customers. “Because Discord is growing so fast, we have to anticipate quickly and creatively to provide the best growth plan for the short term and the long term. This requires an agile organization like i3D.net to be there along every step of Discords journey.”
In addition, fast-paced growing organizations like Discord require an agile organization to tackle challenges that come with such rapid growth.