Zynga, the Latest Computing Success

Zynga – Cloud Computing Success

The business world is abuzz with the upcoming Zynga IPO which is expected to raise $1 billion from investors and value the gaming company as high as $20 billion. Just for the record, Zynga is a California-based game developer that made FarmVille and CityVille, two of its most popular products, part of the popular lexicon.

From modest beginnings in 2007, Zynga now has more than 2,000 employees across the world, annual revenues of $850 million, and a whopping 250 million daily online users. In fact, its meteoric growth has far surpassed expectations, even of its management. As Mark Williams, VP of network operations, said, “Zynga has been horrible in terms of its ability to predict its success.” However, it has been able to survive, and thrive, due to cloud computing.

It was a mere stroke of luck that brought Zynga to the cloud. When the company launched FarmVille in June 2009, it had run out of data center space and decided to use Amazon’s EC2 as a stopgap measure. At that time, Zynga expected to rack up 200,000 daily active users in the first two months at best; however, the game added 1 million users every week.

Without the scalability of cloud computing, Zynga could very well have crashed and burned. In fact, Williams believes that without Amazon EC2, FarmVille couldn’t have become as successful as it is today. For a then-small company, cloud computing indeed allowed Zynga to play with the big boys.
Nowadays, Zynga has a different approach to cloud computing than is the norm. Whereas many companies treat the cloud as an extension of their own data centers, using it only when in-house resources fall short, Zynga does exactly the opposite by launching its products in the cloud and then bringing them in-house once demand stabilizes. This allows for maximum efficiency at minimum costs.

As Zynga gets ready for its first public listing, the company is highlighting its use of cloud computing as one of its core strengths, stating that it has “created a scalable cloud-based server and network infrastructure that enables us to deliver games to millions of players simultaneously with high levels of performance and reliability.”

Going by its filing documents, the company seems to have found the right balance between traditional data centers and cloud computing. “Our physical network infrastructure utilizes a mixture of our own datacenters and public cloud datacenters linked with high-speed networking. We utilize commodity hardware, and our architecture is designed for high availability and fault tolerance while accommodating the demands of social game play,” says the S-1 document.

We have developed our architecture to work effectively in a flexible cloud environment that has a high degree of elasticity. For example, our automatic provisioning tools have enabled us to add up to 1,000 servers in a 24-hour period in response to game demand. We operate at a scale that routinely delivers more than one petabyte of content per day. We intend to invest in and use more of our own infrastructure going forward, which we believe will provide us with an even better cost profile and position us to further drive operating leverage,” it added.

By Sourya Biswas

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