Inside Zynga's Big Move To Private Cloud

With private cloud, Zynga found it could do the same work it had been doing on Amazon EC2, but with one-third the
ZCloud builders redesigned how game logic servers processed data from all the activities taking place in the games. If it was temporary data or needed quickly as play continued, a game logic server stored it on a nearby device on its own rack. If was data that needed to be persisted for future reference, it was moved off the game logic server and streamed away to longer term storage, freeing up the host for greater availability to players.

"Know thy game," intoned Leinwand, and it turned out that the Zynga staff hadn't known very well the pathways of the complicated interactions.

Other bottlenecks were found in the networks to storage systems, Internet traffic moving through Web servers, firewalls' ability to process the streams of traffic, and load balancers' ability to keep up with constantly shifting demand.

Zynga went a step further. Since some of its game activities require connections to Facebook applications or take place in Facebook applications, it sought locations for its zCloud data centers that were in the same region as Facebook's. Likewise, with its continued use of Amazon, it sought to identify "super regions" where the data centers of all could be in close proximity, reducing delays caused by geographic separation.

"We think of all of our operations in the super region as a really big data center," said Leinwand. A Zynga game data center is directly connected to an Amazon EC2 data center by fiber optic cable, allowing Zynga to shift workloads over a high-speed interconnect.

With both Amazon and Facebook, "latency within a super region is in the single digit milliseconds. They are very tightly coupled pieces of infrastructure," he said.

Zynga uses Citrix Systems CloudStack as its virtual machine management interface superimposed on all zCloud VMs, regardless of whether they're in the public cloud or private cloud.

Asked when he would complete his move out of the public cloud into zCloud, Leinwand paused, then said, "I don't know if I've thought about it that way. I want both in our toolbox. I want to launch games in zCloud and have the flexibility of bursting to Amazon."

In the interview, he was more explicit. "We own the base, rent the spike. We want a hybrid operation. We love knowing that shock absorber is there."

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek.

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