How Zynga Created Its Hybrid Cloud

Allan Leinwand, CTO of Zynga, an online game provider, delivered a keynote speech at the recent DatacenterDynamics conference in San Francisco. He talked about how Zynga creates hybrid cloud.

Allan Leinwand

The number of Zynga’s game users is growing rapidly. The company had its own data center for supporting online games, but their infrastructure could not keep up with the rate of growth (250 million active online users). In 2009, they moved from their own infrastructure to Amazon’s public cloud for scalability and agility with a tool from Rightscale. After a while, they started to develop private cloud because they realized that using public cloud is simply trading capex for opex. Their private cloud, called Zcloud, has some interesting characteristics, such as one virtual machine (VM) for one physical server, rather than multiple VMs sharing the same physical server.


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Today, Zynga implements hybrid cloud by running its private Zcloud and the public AWS cloud together. I do not think they are moving VMs between the two clouds, because there is a limit—60 miles—to how far you can move a VM. Moreover, AWS’s file system is a modified version of the original Xen file system, and Zcloud implements standard Xenserver (according to Allan). VMs on AWS and Zcloud cannot interoperate, even if they solve the distance limitation problem.

Allan also talked about public cloud outages, including for AWS. Any system could fail at one time or another. According to Allan, Zynga designed their applications not to be affected by such failures. The current architecture of Zynga’s system is shown below.

Zynga moved from their own data center to public cloud (AWS) and then created its own private cloud to form hybrid cloud. They must be doing something right to support such rapid growth. I still want to know more about what they actually did, but it was impossible to pick it up in 40 minutes. For example, I want to know how they actually allocate VMs on public cloud and their own Zcloud. Also, what is this orchestration engine in the picture above? I failed to catch Allan after the talk and am dying to know the answers to these questions.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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