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Zynga infrastructure CTO: Making hardware cool again

Interop keynote speaker Allan Leinwand of Zynga shares his thoughts on the state of cloud computing and what advice he has for enterprises looking to tap into the cloud

By , Network World
April 23, 2012 06:03 AM ET
Allan Leinwand

Network World - Allan Leinwand is an infrastructure guy. He's CTO for infrastructure at Zynga, which during the past few years has built the zCloud, which powers some of the most popular social games today, such as "FarmVille" and "Words with Friends." It works by combining the capacity of Amazon Web Service's public cloud with the company's custom-built private cloud. And Leinwand says Zynga's evolution from relying on the public cloud to building a custom-made hybrid cloud, is one he hopes other enterprises can learn from. Leinwand is also excited because finally, he says, infrastructure is cool again. During the dot-com bubble all the talk was all about the Web, networking and storage. Now, with the increasing popularity of the cloud, infrastructure is once again front and center. This year Leinwand will be one of the keynote speakers at Interop (May 6-10 in Las Vegas) where he will discuss the evolution of zCloud and the state of cloud computing today.

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You say that infrastructure is cool again, but isn't the whole idea of a public cloud about outsourcing infrastructure, and getting it off the minds of IT executives?

There's a perception, I think, that public clouds will lead to the outsourcing of infrastructure and IT. But I actually think a hybrid model, which means owning the base infrastructure and renting the spike capacity, is really the mantra of the future. A hybrid model that uses both a public and a private cloud is really the way most enterprises will build their clouds, I think.

READ: How to go hybrid

When I think of cloud, I think of a hybrid cloud environment where you have infrastructure that is owned and maintained by the user and is optimized for your business. Then there is a public cloud component, which is a more generic, homogenous infrastructure that you can tap into and scale with. Using those two in unison is really, I think, going to be the model going forward.

One concern a lot of enterprises might have in building a hybrid cloud model is the interoperability between the public and private clouds. How did you approach that issue when building zCloud?

When we built zCloud hybrid we made sure that we had compute that could move seamlessly between the public and the private clouds. That meant having common hypervisor equipment in the public and the private clouds. We also made virtual machine images that could be used on both the public and the private cloud and we spent time working with vendors making sure that workloads could be moved from the public to the private clouds using a single dashboard. Basically, we knew that if we used a model that people hadn't seen before, it would be hard. So, we made the private portion of zCloud look and feel exactly like the public cloud. One other really important thing, I think, is that we treat the collection of the public and the private cloud as the zCloud. We don't differentiate between the public and the private clouds in terms of how we orchestrate, automate and deploy.

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