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Gaming Hints At Enterprise Cloud Future

RightScale manages eight of the 12 most popular games on the Web by serving as a front end management system for the cloud.
In effect, the automated monitoring system is guided by rules and policies that the game's supplier said it wished to follow. If 50% CPU usage is a magic number, the RightScale system knows when a certain number of servers in the cluster cross that threshold and it allocates more resources in the cloud.

FarmVille and most other games managed through the RightScale front-end system run on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, but they rely on RightScale to manage the traffic, commission new servers in the cloud as traffic builds and decommission them as it fades away.

RightScale also acts as a front end monitoring and management system to Rackspace customers. Other suppliers will be added as demand warrants, he said.

RightScale set out to be a front end manager of enterprises' use of the cloud; that's still its primary mission. But managing the needs of online game producers is now "a significant minority of our business," Crandell said in an interview.

In addition to Zynga and CrowdStar, RightScale also serves as the cloud manager for another gaming company, Playfish, supplier of "Who's Got the Biggest Brain?" and other games. Eight of the 12 most popular games on the Web, amounting to 77 million daily users, are being managed through the RightScale cloud management front end, he said.

The example of the way games expand their use of resources to serve millions of users and contract as their popularity wanes can serve as a model for companies that find themselves with a hit product or service, whose popularity grows and eventually wanes. It's no surprise, then, when he says: "The ability to choose the resources you need and balance them in the face of fluctuating demand is the right way to go."