When Betfair merged with Paddy Power it was a joining of an online gambling exchange with a high-street retailer. The company wanted to deploy a new cloud platform for its customer-facing systems - and it picked Red Hat's OpenStack platform. Global head of operations Richard Haigh explains.
The newly merged company went from zero to a production-ready OpenStack private cloud in just seven months. With the help of vendors Red Hat and Nuage, it created a pilot running a couple of hundred nodes and is now set for full production status this June.
The private cloud will host Betfair's exchange - a service similar to the stock exchanges -which supports 120 million transactions per day, 2.7 billion API transactions and has 1.7 million active users. It'll also offer scope for the company to integrate the exchange with its physical stores, as well as powering its casino games that customers tend to play in between betting.
Betfair picked Red Hat's OpenStack distribution because it needed to ensure as little downtime as possible. In addition to Betfair's core gambling customer base, professional traders also operate on the exchange - so seconds matter and downtime is noticed practically immediately (although Haigh says it's about 1.5 seconds).
"You can imagine at the end of a horse race, traffic gets fast and you don't have a lot of time to recover from problems," Haigh says, speaking with Computerworld UK at the OpenStack Summit in Austin. He adds: "We also wanted to bring support in-house - I wanted to build a team that could look after the estate themselves so I needed partners who were happy to come and train our guys up."
"We will always have underlying support behind the scenes but I need a team that are my first responders in-house."
The training for this new platform wasn't straightforward. But the vendors were responsive.
"The off-the-shelf training from Red Hat just wasn't ticking our boxes," Haigh says. "So we had to go back and say: we have to pretty much write our own curriculum with you. So we put together specific training for the Paddy Power Betfair guys based on what we had done and what we were using. That's been successful."
The Nuage training, Haigh adds, was tailor-made - because the company was involved from the start.
"What came across very strongly when we were picking from the crowd was that Red Hat and Nuage together understood us, and we understood them," Haigh says. This line echoes a wider sentiment at the Summit: that technology can be trivial to success when compared to culture.
Betfair Paddypower hopes that by deploying this Openstack system it will simplify the management of its infrastructure. At the same time, the perception of overcomplexity in the ecosystem is not necessarily a bad thing - with the Red Hat system providing plenty of scope for bringing in extra features and diving into those complexities should the company choose to.
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