Zynga Manages Hyper-Growth With Hybrid Cloud

A carefully executed hybrid cloud strategy has helped social gaming company Zynga weather the infrastructure scaling challenge where you either “scale fast or fail fast.” With 215 million users playing its games on social networks – including 50 million who log on every day – Zynga has faced some serious scalability challenges.

From the farm to the city

A year ago Zynga was basking in the Farmville, which became a huge hit on Facebook.  With millions of people playing its games, Zynga had a scaling issue parallel to Facebook, which has  designed and implemented a number of data center strategies to address its dynamic growth.

In 2010 Zynga was rumored to have purchased space in a major data center in northern Virginia (DuPont Fabros’ ACC5 in Ashburn).  Zynga was also a 2010 case study for using the RightScale cloud management platform.  With the launch of CityVille the company grew apprehensive watching registrations ramp up, with 20 million users subscribing in the first four months after launch.

Zynga’s Z Cloud

Iver the past year Zynga has taken a hybrid infrastructure strategy that has served it well. To start, Zynga launches a new game in the Amazon EC2 service, since demand is at its lowest.  Once a game hits more predictable levels it will be brought back in house to their Z Cloud private architecture, which is similar to what Amazon runs. The Z Cloud is comprised of company owned servers in wholesale data center space from companies on the east and west coasts. Zynga has created a backbone across these different geographic locations in order to back each one another up.

Describing the hybrid approach, Zynga CTO of infrastructure engineering Allan Leinwand said “we view the public cloud and private cloud as one system. We architect and manage it as one system.”

To empower their Z Cloud for handling more than 200 million active users a month they rely on virtualization, automation and the most recent Westmere generation of Intel Xeon processors.  Years of developing a  management software layer and a simple approach to hardware is what allows them to fully take advantage of a cloud platform, virtualization and scale.  Favoring the flexibility of open source technologies Zynga uses Citrix Systems’ XenServer, MySQL and Couch DB.

FaceBook also relies heavily on custom software to manage and scale their infrastructure – with Project Triforce addressing the additional complexity of bringing their Prineville Oregon facility online.

Scalability challenge of the month

Earlier this month Zynga announced a partnership with Lady Gaga to launch the mega-artist’s new album “Born this Way.”  The first-of-its-kind program gives fans exclusive access to un-released songs via GagaVille, a uniquely designed neighboring farm in FarmVille.  What does Lady Gaga bring to the scalability challenge?  A incredible fan-base:  34 million FaceBook fans and over 1.4 billion YouTube views.

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About the Author

John Rath is a veteran IT professional and regular contributor at Data Center Knowledge. He has served many roles in the data center, including support, system administration, web development and facility management.

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