My ActionScript Game Server with 15,000 Concurrent Connections

Posted on April 25, 2012 | 15 comments


Create a game using ActionScript for both the server side game server and the client side game with the ability for a large number of concurrent (10,000+) socket connections. Make sure memory and performance of the application are up to the task.

What am I talking about?

This blog post will explain how I created a socket server running on an Amazon EC2 Ubuntu server with more than 15k+ concurrent connections. This socket server has all the game logic for a game called SpellTraction, for which both the server and client are written in ActionScript.

Server: Game built in ActionScript 3 and run as a shell process using a modified redtamarin build. The modified redtamarin has a libev based socket server.
Client: Client game built with ActionScript 3.

To check out a running version of the client go to either: – this version is driven by other Amazon EC2 instances that are running test scripts to create the 15k+ connections.

or – the game with any other player looking at it right now.

Here is a screenshot of the game:

The source code that I used for the server and client is located on my github repo here.

History of leveraging Tamarin to run ActionScript as a Process (i.e. ActionScript on the Server)

Adobe open sourced the virtual machine (VM) of the Flash Player and donated it to the Mozilla foundation as the project Tamarin. What gives Flash Player its rich set of features is all the c/cpp classes created around the ActionScript Tamarin VM. Making the Tamarin VM available to developers opened the door for different use cases and implementations. This is where people started to realize they could do ActionScript on the server.

Three main projects that created feature rich classes around Tamarin for the specific use of server side ActionScript were: Thane (part of Whirled SDK by ThreeRings), redtamarin (by zwetan and others), and PushButton Engines Network component by Ben Garney.

Most of these projects were built for specific use cases and are not necessarily in active development. But the main point is that creating ActionScript based specific game servers is very doable. For example Whirled is a whole ecosystem that lets developers create ActionScript based games and load them on their server. The server then uses their Tamarin modified shell process to run the ActionScript based game code.

For my use case I wanted something that was specific to games and a little more modern, e.g. make it Node.js like. So I pulled down the redtamarin source, which had documentation that I could somewhat understand, and built a c/c++ libev based socket server. I added as3signals to have a simplified callback api to create a game tick and socket connections.

The API could easily be change some more to make it even smaller but the hopefully you get the idea. Here is an application that would respond to any connections to the server with the text “You have connected”:

public function connectHandler(client:ClientSocket, connect:Boolean):void
    if (connect)
        client.sendUTF("You have connected");
function loopHandler():void
    if (!ss.listening)
        ss.listen("", 9898);
        ;// Game server tick
var ss:ServerSocket = new ServerSocket(connectHandler);

The Fun of Solving the High Concurrent Connections Problem

There are a bunch of data and blog posts on the C10K problem, which nowadays is the C1M problem. Node.js is based on libev but just using the event model over the select, kqueue, epoll, etc.. socket models is half the battle. You still have to configure you server to handle that kind of load.

For example I am no expert in kernel configuration for linux, but for my current EC2 Ubuntu setup I have settings that look like this:

net.core.rmem_max = 33554432
net.core.wmem_max = 33554432
net.core.rmem_default = 1048576
net.core.wmem_default = 1048576
net.core.optmem_max = 33554432
net.ipv4.tcp_rmem = 4096 4096 33554432
net.ipv4.tcp_wmem = 4096 4096 33554432
net.ipv4.tcp_mem = 786432 1048576 26777216
net.ipv4.tcp_max_tw_buckets = 360000
net.core.netdev_max_backlog = 30000
net.ipv4.ip_local_port_range = 2048 65535
net.ipv4.tcp_window_scaling = 1
net.ipv4.tcp_no_metrics_save = 1
net.core.somaxconn = 131072
fs.file-max = 131072

NR_OPEN = 65536

*                soft    nofile          65535
*                hard    nofile          65535

Another side thing I learned was how much memory the OS uses for connections. At first I was worried about my game taking up a bunch of memory but quickly found out the bigger concern is what the OS needs to handle sending and receiving data on that many connections. Look at the 1 million connection link above, he is running servers with 25GB+ memory.


It took me just 3 days to go from not understanding c/c++ socket programming to having a working libev socket server prototype integrated with redtamarin. If I knew what I was doing it would have been quicker and I could flesh out a bunch more game specific features. But for my test case it was sufficient. The tooling workflow around Tamarin and building the abc files that get run by the shell process are a bit lacking. But zwetan’s tools on the redtamarin Google code project help a lot (thats really for another blog post).

I have had the app running now for 5+ days with over 15k+ connections. I could try to push it past 15k+ connections but I didn’t want to do large ec2 instances and ramping up that many connections actually takes a bit of time. The memory is staying stable at a delta of 15Mb since it started at a total of 20Mb (current stats). And using “top” on the server the CPU usages is not much more than 9%, and that is all processes running. This means memory and CPU are not the bottleneck for running ActionScript on the server. Of course this could change based on your game but my game does do some logic calculations each frame and sends a lot of messages out each 250ms, which is representative of, a big set of use cases.

My final conclusion: Using Tamarin is a very promising approach to using ActionScript on the server, especially for gaming. The pieces have been around for a while but the know-how is not so prevalent in the ActionScript community. If you are interested in using Tamarin for a game server let me know on twitter, @renaun.

  • GarthDB

    That’s a sweet looking game.

    • Ezell Burke

      Man you answered my prayers! Was wondering and hoping it was possible.

  • gary


    this is very interesting for me as an as3 developer. Is it possible to run inside the server an native process to communicate with pipe cli programs?

    • Anonymous

      Yes, redtamarin does have an API to call out to the command line and get the results.

      If that is not how you want to interact with the specific OS pipe you could easily write a c class that did the shim.

  • gary

    this project so interesting for me.

    can you please tell me which ec2 instance you have run? was it an micro instance?

    in the past i used for my own server the library for not get in trouble with threads problem that came with concurrent connections. all in C.

    when your server run the concurrent connection, what about the threading? Can you please answer how many threads were open when you reach the 15k connections?

    i will start next night my own project with your examples, which is an encoding server, written in adobe AIR, currently as an native desktop with bundle AIR runtime. I think it is possible to let the main app working as an server and maybe tamarin on the client side…really interesting…

    When i really think about this idea, i think that is possible to run tamarin on an small embedded ARM device, to build then an encoding cluster or an origin server for CDN / clouds with small power or coast.

    iam glad that you have shown that a server project is possible.


    • Anonymous

      I am using a ec2 medium instance with a 64-bit Ubuntu OS on it.

      The redtamarin shell is still one process. I am not sure what you mean about multi threads being a problem for concurrent connections. My app is one process like I said, and the OS with the kernel configuration changes handles all the file descriptors.

      There definitely a great uses for redtamarin for niche shell applications.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting. Do you think it feasible to implement a service that, for example, generates a graph from AMF3 input data and returns bitmap via socket?

    • Anonymous

      The drawing api’s are not by default in redtamarin so you would have to hook up a graphics library to do the drawing.

  • richard


    great article, i was looking for something exactly like this. I am also running EC2 micro instance, but i have trouble running redtamarin on Ubuntu. I can easily package application for Windows(developing on Windows with FlashDevelop +, but i have really trouble to package it for ubuntu. I have even tried to install Ubuntu on my desktop and package it there, but i am unable to find the right way. Can you help ?

  • Darl2ng

    Hi Renaun,

    There’s one thing I don’t understand about the client side with your implementation: since the class is not compatible with your ClientSocket, we have to import the avmplus.ClientSocket, thus, ServerSocket to our client code, is it correct?



    • Anonymous

      So anything on the Client side doesn’t relate to the ServerSide code. In the Flash Player (client side) it has a class called that only connects to server sockets. In Redtamarin there is an avmplus.Socket class that does server socket and client socket implementations, but is based on select() and limited to 1024 (unless you mod that C header file). My implementation of ServerSocket is just the server part of a tcp socket, the ClientSocket class was not fully implemented to my connections but is more of a place holder class to keep a reference to the file descriptor to close and send data.

      You can’t use any of the Flash Player APIs in the server tamarin solution. Tamarin only provides what you implement. Hope that makes sense.

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  • Andre Spierings

    It would be interesting to see a comparison between this and an Adobe AIR server. Adobe AIR servers only run on Windows and are single threaded… but a performance comparison would be interesting.

  • Kartik Mehta

    Hi, How can i deploy on windows machine?

    • renaun

      Windows OS have different OS configs to get large number of connections, which I am not familiar enough with. But libev is cross platform so the redtaramin side is doable.
      Sent from a device