February 15, 2012, 2:18 PM — Zynga has moved most of its users away from Amazon Web Services and onto its private cloud in a move to maximize the reliability and performance of its social games network.
Nearly 80% of Zynga's daily active users were hosted on its own infrastructure at the end of 2011, a reversal from the start of last year, when 80% were hosted in Amazon's public cloud, Allan Leinwand, Zynga's CTO for infrastructure, said in an interview.
He thinks of Amazon as "a four-door sedan," whereas Zynga is able to fine-tune its own network, which it calls zCloud, to run like a sports car, he said.
"We love four-door sedans, but it's a car that's used for a lot of things -- doing the shopping, moving the kids. I like to think of zCloud as the sports car built for the Le Mans of social gaming. It's tuned for the track."
Leinwand talked with IDG News Service ahead of a presentation at the CloudConnect conference in San Jose, California, on Wednesday, where he described how the maker of "Farmville" and "Words with Friends" has rethought its compute infrastructure over the past year. He also described the changes in a blog post.
He revealed that Zynga can now get 1,000 servers up and running in 24 hours, from loading dock to operation, and that it has been able to eliminate one in three physical servers since moving its operations from Amazon to its private cloud.
Zynga will continue to use Amazon in a hybrid cloud model, and Leinwand doesn't see Zynga reducing its dependence on Amazon any further, he said. But it now sees Amazon as a way to deal with unexpected surges in demand rather than as its primary platform.
"We love the flexibility it offers; we love to know we have that option," he said.
Zynga's move could provide clues for how companies that place a premium on performance will use the cloud in the future and how cloud services may develop.
"What's missing from the cloud today is the ability to take that infrastructure-as-a-service and customize it and tweak it in an appropriate way for our business," Leinwand said.
"For IT to really embrace cloud computing and outsource their data centers, you need to have more control than perhaps we're seeing these days."
Zynga started out hosting games on its own servers in a collocation facility but moved to Amazon when it couldn't keep pace with demand. A turning point was the 2009 launch of "Farmville," which shot from zero to 10 million users in six weeks.
From then until early last year Zynga launched all its new games in the cloud, moving them to its own servers only when demand became predictable.