Also at the Citrix Synergy conference Simon Crosby introduced a mystery speaker who turned out to be Allan Leinwand, Zynga's Chief Technology Officer — Infrastructure who told a fascinating story of scale. Zynga's games include Farmville and Words With Friends. The demand on Zynga's infrastructure is amazing — 250 million monthly active users, five new players join Zynga every second, over 10% of the world's Internet population plays Zynga games every month. To make things really difficult, it's hard to predict how fast a new game might grow. Let's say they launch a new game on a Monday. They have no idea what the demand will be on Friday. If the game is a flop, they won't need much infrastructure. If it's a success and goes viral, the demand on the infrastructure could be huge — Words With Friends processes 1,000 moves a second. Early on the company couldn't grow its infrastructure (space, cooling, servers, networking equipment and transit) fast enough. The scaling is amazing - for every one server they had in January 09 they had 75 just two years later. The straw that broke the camel's back was Farmville which in 2009 grew to 25 million daily active users in just five months — a growth rate that was impossible for them to grow out their physical infrastructure that quickly — so they made a quick move to start using Amazon's AWS. Realizing they were trading between operational expense and capital expense they decided to build their own private cloud which they call zcloud — fast scaling, open source, Xen, X86 architecture — which uses RightScale to provision services on both their private cloud and Amazon. Zynga's growth is an interesting example of how quickly things have changed in the infrastructure world on both the demand size (supporting users) and the supply side (providing server cycles). This would have been a completely different story five years ago with the outcome costing hundreds of millions of dollars to provision infrastructure ahead of demand. Who knows, maybe their next game is going to be "infrastructure scaling with friends" for all of us infrastructure geeks to play around with application demand and server availability (Humm, that's not such a bad idea...)
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