With six of the top 10 Facebook games, Zynga has a serious business. But have you ever wondered where the games actually run?
The company started off with its own servers, but its explosive growth meant it couldn't accommodate or even order new servers quickly enough to keep up with demand. So with the release of FarmVille, Zynga moved to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in order to gain the scalability it needed, explained Alan Leinwand, the company's chief technology officer - infrastructure during a keynote presentation at the Citrix Synergy 2011 conference in San Francisco.
Zynga uses RightScale to automate provisioning, further improving responsiveness. Games either scale fast or fail fast, he said, so it is important that infrastructure issues don't get in the way of business.
But Zynga realised it was trading operational expenses for capital expenses. Once it can begin to forecast a particular game's growth, it can also predict the infrastructure requirements. So the company decided to build its own private cloud, dubbed zcloud, which would be managed as a single system with the virtual servers in the AWS cloud.
Zcloud went from concept to production in just six months, Leinwand said. While avoiding the disclosure of exact numbers, he said on one occasion over 1000 physical servers were deployed in a 24 hour period, and that the number of zcloud servers grew 75-fold between January 2009 and January 2011.
According to Citrix CTO Simon Crosby, Zynga's system is the world's largest hybrid cloud.
Disclosure: the writer travelled to San Francisco as the guest of Citrix.