Less than a month after being acquired Zynga OMGPOP is well on its way to being integrated into the giant game maker’s technology roadmap, according to Jason Pearlman, CTO of OMGPOP.
Draw Something, the mobile game sensation that put OMGPOP on the map, is getting new perks this week, including an easy undo feature, two-click posting of drawings to Facebook and Twitter, and messaging that lets users annotate their drawings before sharing them. And some of that work is already being done on Zynga’s internal Z cloud, Pearlman, who is now CTO of Zynga’s new Mobile NY group, said in an interview Tuesday.
Z cloud is Zynga’s internally developed cloud that now runs the bulk of its computing workload. When Zynga started out, 80 percent of its game launch workloads ran on Amazon Web Services, now 20 percent of them do.
Moving fast is nothing new to OMGPOP. When Draw Something debuted in February, there were 30,000 initial downloads. Nine days later, downloads topped a million. To date, there have been 50 million.
“We thought we knew how to scale our backend systems, then Draw Something happened,” Pearlman said. “When we started with it, it was just another game to us. We make as many games as possible as fast as we can. We thought it had potential but had no idea how big it would get.”
It wasn’t as if OMGPOP went all out promoting the game. There was a small media buy, he said, but then people started tweeting about it. “Celebrities started tweeting and atop all that, the people who were signing up and playing weren’t leaving. Our DAUs [daily average users] kept growing and growing.”
Even engineers used to building to scale will tell you it’s hard to tell under these unanticipated loads “when things will start to fall over,” he said.
The OMGPOP back-end guys — Pearlman and two others — met the challenge with brute force. “We started bringing up tons and tons of servers, we ported over all our key value code to a new [non-blocking Ruby-based Goliath] framework and we worked around the clock,” he said. There were other hair-raising tales, about having to rewrite the app and deploy it on a new Couchbase NoSQL cluster and then hitting more issues.
Now Draw Something is up to 3,000 drawings per second. For that reason, Pearlman is really happy to be working with Zynga CTO of infrastructure Allan Leinwand on the strategy for moving more of OMGPOP over to Z cloud.
While there are benefits to working in small, tight-knit groups, there are also advantages to having lots of resources. “Having Zynga acquire us helps us — instead of spending all night just keeping things up and running, we can work on new features,” he said.