Zynga moves from AWS to its own Data Centers

Zynga is one of AWS largest tenants, supporting Zynga's rapid growth.  I discovered most of this information a year ago interviewing some people, and now that there is a public document, I can blog the following information.

VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi reports on the disclosure in the SEC statement.

Zynga planning to diversify beyond Amazon, build its own data centers

One of the little-known facts about social game giant Zynga is that it’s one of the biggest operators of cloud computing infrastructure, built to support its current customer base of more than 281 million monthly active users.

For much of its four-year history, Zynga has relied on a third-party hosting company, Amazon Web Services, for the hardware infrastructure for its server-based games such as FarmVille on Facebook. But to cut costs and diversify its risks, Zynga is now investing more money in building its own data centers, according to the company’s initial public offering filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Zynga considers the investment in its own infrastructure to be important enough to warrant an investment of $100 – $150 million in the second half of 2011, according to the filing.

Where is Zynga moving to?  DCK reports on some of the sites.

Zynga currently leases data center space from two wholesale data center providers, DuPont Fabros Technology (DFT) and Digital Realty Trust (DLR). In the wholesale data center model, a tenant leases dedicated, fully-built data center space. Thisapproach offers greater control and security than shared colocation space, and is quicker and cheaper than building an entire data center facility. The tenant pays a significant premium over typical leases for office space, but is spared the capital investment to construct the data center.

Several of Zynga’s leased data centers are adjacent to Facebook data center facilities.

How fast can Zynga react in its new infrastructure?  How about 1,000 servers in a day.

Using Amazon EC2 and Leased Data Centers
Zynga has a strong cloud-based infrastructure that balances Amazon cloud instances with its own internal cloud infrastructure.  With the ability to add as many as 1,000 new servers to accomodate a surge in users in a 24 hour period (according to the S-1) a heavy hosting cost is associated with increased user demand.  By building more of its own infrastructure in company-owned data centers, Zynga might be able to reduce that cost.

Zynga has architected its solution for AWS.

Cadir Lee (CTO Zynga) quoted in a VentureBeat post:

It’s not the amount of hardware that matters. It’s the architecture of the application. You have to work at making your app architecture so that it takes advantage of Amazon. You have to have complete fluidity with the storage tier, the web tier. We are running our own data centers. We are looking more at doing our own data centers with more of a private cloud.

Netflix is infamous for being 100% in AWS, and Zynga is going in the opposite direction.

Zynga is going the opposite direction than Netflix. While Netflix is focusing (by using Amazon for most of their infrastructure), Zynga is diversifying (building their own data centers) .

And, what has Zynga learned running in AWS.  Note the yellow below "We have experienced, and may in the future experience, website disruptions, outages and other performance problems due to a variety of factors, including infrastructure changes, human or software errors and capacity constraints."

A significant majority of our game traffic is hosted by a single vendor and any failure or significant interruption in our network could impact our operations and harm our business. Our technology infrastructure is critical to the performance of our games and to player satisfaction. Our games run on a complex distributed system, or what is commonly known as cloud computing. We own, operate and maintain elements of this system, but significant elements of this system are operated by third parties that we do not control and which would require significant time to replace. We expect this dependence on third parties to continue. In particular, a significant majority of our game traffic is hosted by Amazon Web Services, or AWS, which service uses multiple locations. We have experienced, and may in the future experience, website disruptions, outages and other performance problems due to a variety of factors, including infrastructure changes, human or software errors and capacity constraints. For example, the operation of a few of our significant games, including FarmVille and CityVille, was interrupted for several hours in April 2011 due to a network outage. If a particular game is unavailable when players attempt to access it or navigation through a game is slower than they expect, players may stop playing the game and may be less likely to return to the game as often, if at all. A failure or significant interruption in our game service would harm our reputation and operations. We expect to continue to make significant investments to our technology infrastructure to maintain and improve all aspects of player experience and game performance. To the extent that our disaster recovery systems are not adequate, or we do not effectively address capacity constraints, upgrade our systems as needed and continually develop our technology and network architecture to accommodate increasing traffic, our business and operating results may suffer. We do not maintain insurance policies covering losses relating to our systems and we do not have business interruption insurance.