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Zynga: Cloud Infrastructure as Competitive Differentiator | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

One of the most interesting items in the recent Zynga S-1 filing (at least from our perspective) was the statement that Zynga views its cloud technology infrastructure as one of its top sources of “competitive advantage.” They’re one of the first companies that we know of to view their cloud infrastructure as a strategic differentiator, but it will definitely not be the last.

Though the technology is still emerging, the ability to “own the base and rent the peak” will be a key driver of enterprise cloud economics and overall adoption. This is essentially the concept of understanding workload behavior (individually and as a portfolio), and then architecting private clouds for maximum utilization by spiking peak demand to public cloud environments. The potential cost and efficiency gains are impressive, and will likely exceed even the gains from moving from dedicated to virtualized environments. eBay recently provided a great example of how to leverage the base/peak model to reduce data center costs and improve efficiencies.

Zynga uses a unique, reverse variation on this model. Zynga initially launches each new game in a public cloud environment (Amazon EC2) and tracks utilization and other metrics for three to six months. Zynga then uses this data to more effectively size the private cloud resources and infrastructure required for that game to maximize efficiency and flexibility. Zynga effectively leverages the flexibility of the public cloud model to optimize investment in private cloud assets and capacity.

While it’s still early days, the base/peak model and the ability to leverage the flexibility of the public cloud with the utilization economics of the private cloud offers tremendous opportunity for the enterprise. eBay and Zynga both provide great examples of innovative approaches to leveraging this principle – let us know if you have any other examples…

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