The technology requirements of an eGaming site are varied but fast response times and the ability to handle large swings in demand are both critical. These requirements have traditionally been met by throwing a lot of hardware at the problem, but with increased pressure on margins allied to rising hosting and power costs this method is viewed as unsustainable.
To date most cloud providers have struggled to provide the true on-demand, high performance services accompanied by the enterprise class SLAs that the eGaming industry needs. Add into the mix that many regulators have struggled to understand cloud technologies and it’s understandable that the adoption of cloud services by eGaming suppliers has been low.
I think it is time for the eGaming industry to re-examine the viability of using cloud to host their services. After all, the requirements for highly secure services, combined with flexibility, guaranteed performance and a utility based charging model are all common to many other businesses.
So let’s look at some of the technologies that are changing the way IT services can be delivered for eGaming:
Currently the mainstream Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers struggle to fully guarantee workloads. Some specialist providers do provide guarantees by using dedicated resources pools within a multi-tenanted platform, but to date, none of them are providing a true on-demand environment that covers all the main resources; CPU, memory, bandwidth I/O and disk I/O.
Whilst most providers offer some guarantees around CPU and memory they have struggled with bandwidth and disk I/O. That’s because the technology they’re using was not designed specifically for cloud service providers and has struggled to deliver in multi-tenanted environments.
New entrants, such as storage supplier Solidfire (recently acquired by NetApp for $870m), have risen to the challenge and their all solid state disk systems deliver an exact level of performance and bandwidth across multiple workloads. They deliver these performance guarantees across tens of thousands of servers and their associated applications plus they can adapt to changes on the fly, allowing the cloud provider to get very close to true “utility computing”.
Whenever I meet new clients to discuss transforming their IT services to a cloud orientated one, one of the main technology barriers is the network; it’s complicated and expensive to change what has normally taken many man years of effort to get it to where it is today, let alone change it again to allow it to cope with a 3rd party cloud offering.
Again, where there is a problem, there are start-ups with a radically different approach. In this case the solution is Software Defined Networking (SDN) pioneered by the likes of Nicira which was acquired by VMware for $1.26Bn and which now forms the core of their network virtualization platform – NSX.
NSX is part of an industry wide trend to decouple IT services from the underlying hardware. In a close analogy to the virtual machine, a virtualized network is a software container that presents logical network components—logical switches, routers, firewalls, load balancers, VPNs and more—to connected workloads.
The key to these two technologies isn’t just that they solve problems that have caused delays in cloud adoption, but that they are simple. They are simple to deploy compared to previous technologies and, most importantly, they are simple to use.
The storage and networking improvements described above plus several other more established virtualisation technologies have created a new generation of cloud and the emergence of the Software Defined Datacentre (SDDC). In a SDDC all elements of the infrastructure; networking, storage, CPU and security, are virtualized and delivered as a service. Deployment, provisioning, configuration and operation of the entire infrastructure is abstracted from hardware and implemented through software.
How does this impact eGaming?
The benefits of cloud; such as scalability, on-demand change, and a utility pricing model, have always been attractive to eGaming businesses but adoption has been slow because of concerns over performance and security. Modern cloud providers using the latest generation of technologies described above are able to address these concerns. In addition, the best industry regulators, such as the Jersey Gambling Commission, recognise that cloud technology is every bit as secure and reliable as traditional technologies and arguably offers advantages in these areas.
With these changes the time is now right for the eGaming community to take another look at cloud and exploit the benefits that the latest wave of cloud offerings are capable of delivering to meet the tough demands of the eGaming world.
Chief Commercial Officer and Co-Founder