Cloud and eGaming

I was recently on a panel at an eGaming conference in the UK discussing cloud and eGaming. Most of the companies present were online betting companies.   

 

I think that we can learn a lot from this industry. It is young and dynamic (I'll explain below just how dynamic below). It is willing to try, fail, try again, fail, try again, and then, hopefully, succeed.

 

Application Development

Online betting applications can last just a few days. For example, for a major horse racing event, the online betting companies created an application that lasted for just ten days. In fact, something like 90% of their bets on this race came in a 2 hour period. 

 

So, the online betting company will create an application quickly, use it for 10 days, then tear it down. During that 10 day period, there will be a massive spike during a two hour period.  This is perfect territory for public cloud. Using public cloud means that the online betting company doesn't have to provision servers for the peak demand - they can burst out to the public cloud.  Or, they can just put the whole app into the public cloud. 

 

One of the hot areas in online betting is "social betting". These are gaming applicaitons that people play from FaceBook. No-one can predict which games will do well and which won't. So, there is a strong "suck it and see" mentality. This is also perfect public cloud territory. You develop the app and use public cloud resources for it. If it takes off, you can consider moving it in house for more control and possibly lower costs. However, if it doesn't work, you just give back the capacity to the cloud provider and try with another app. 

 

The incredibly transient nature of eGaming applications also points to a need for cloud in development and testing. This is because eGaming companies need to stand-up and tear down development environments, testing environments, and systems to test against almost constantly.

 

They also need to automate as much of the testing and release process as possible. It is totally and utterly unacceptable for IT Ops to say, "it's going to take us 8 weeks to deploy that application". In eight weeks, the race, the football touranment, or the Olympics will have passed and all that betting money will have gone somewhere else!!

 

Maniacal Focus

One of my fellow panelists was the CEO of an online betting company. He made it very clear that he needs to maintain a maniacal focus on what differentiates his company. His focus is in-game betting. Anything else is a distraction. Running payroll, expenses, travel, email and file sharing systems is a distraction.  The idea of using SaaS for these "non-core" applications is thus very appealing - "I'm 100% commited to this - even though my IT department isn't all at 100% yet". 

 

He knows he needs to keep some server capacity in house because for his winning apps it's still cheaper to own the hardware. But he really doesn't want to worry about choosing when to burst out to the cloud - he wants his servers to make the decision and do it for him.   So, an architecture which has bursting built in is important to him. 

 

Security Concerns and Managed Private Cloud

Everyone knows that there are security concerns regarding public cloud. When this point was raised, one of my other co-panelists commented that the average public cloud provider has an army of security experts versus the typical IT department that probably has one person who is probably not a security black-belt.  Cloud providers typically have to focus on keeping just a few services secure, whereas an IT department has a whole plethera of applications and infrastructure services to secure. And so, it is likely that the public cloud providers are actually more secure than the typical data center. But still the concern remains.

 

One option that thus appealed to our CEO with his maniacal focus is the idea of a "managed private cloud". As I said earlier, he doesn't want to hire people "to do servers". His company is relatively small, and so every hire is a precious resource. If he's going to hire anyone, they have to be a betting expert or an e-gaming expert - not a server expert. So, the idea of asking someone else to create and run a private cloud for him is appealing. He can then have them understand his development environment, testing environment and testing system needs so that they can put these into the catalog they offer to his developers.

 

For him, at this point in time, the managed private cloud is probably the best option for his main-line games. The more experimental stuff, like FaceBook games, is perhaps something for the public cloud.

 

It's a Journey

I"ve worked with a number of customers on cloud. And our HP Professional Services teams have worked with many more. And what I observe, and I saw come thru from the questioning at this eGaming conference, is that cloud is not something you "just do and forget about". It's a journey. And it's not a simple journey. We have to decide ...

 

  • Which applications shall we SaaS - either right now or in the future? (maybe ask the CEO, not the CIO - that way you'll minimize the situation where the business is "creating a SaaS zoo")
  • For the core apps that we don't SaaS, do we need to use cloud for our development and testing systems? If so (and the answer will almost always be yes), shall I use private cloud, managed private cloud or public cloud? Or, a combination of the three depending on our need to "own" things

 

On April 10th, HP made a series of announcements about its Converged Cloud. With Converged Cloud, we have tried to create a series of solutions that help customers create a cloud journey that is balanced and realistic. It helps with SaaS-ing (is that a verb yet?) your non-core applications. And it gives you a range of options for "getting a cloud" - public cloud, private cloud or managed private cloud.   It also recognizes that you need to manage production applications running in private or public cloud -  you need to manage their security, their compliance, their availability and performance and their change control.  And finally, HP can help with on your cloud journey, your cloud evolution, your cloud roadmap.

 

Author : Mike Shaw

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About the Author
Mike has been with HP for 30 years. Half of that time was in R&D, mainly as an architect. The other 15 years has been spent in product manag...
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