Betfair punts on Tassie IT

When UK online betting service Betfair launches its local Web site later this month, it will represent the culmination of eight months of installing new call centre and data centre operations in Hobart.

After receiving a gaming licence from Tasmania's gaming commission, Betfair has made a "significant investment" in developing its infrastructure from scratch by importing its standard back-office architecture, according to infrastructure director Paul Moss.

Moss arrived in Hobart in January and has since put together the local call centre with a "template" of UK equipment based on the "not too adventurous" Avaya TDM voice platform.

Two ISDN connections from Telstra and Optus were leased for redundancy and calls are recorded with software from Nice Systems and are retained for seven years. The integration work was done by the NSC Group.

"We have issues with IP [telephony] around connectivity within sites and call recording is more expensive," Moss said. "We have VoIP phones internally [but] calls between the UK and Australia require a private circuit between sites so we use TDM."

As part of the licence agreement, Betfair's transaction processing is required to be performed in Hobart, but the city lacked a suitable data centre. So Moss and his team built an 86sqm, raised-floor data centre with redundant power, in an old kitchen.

A joint venture between Betfair UK and Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, Betfair Pty Ltd allows individuals to exchange bets on sporting and other events, and, as such, has a very high transaction load.

With the data centre complete, Betfair imported three 24-way Sun E6900 servers from the UK for the Oracle database backend and about 55 AMD Opteron-based Sun "pizza boxes" for the mid-tier and Web infrastructure.

Moss said choosing Opteron was a "simple decision" to make because data centre space in Hobart and cooling is expensive, and the dynamics of Betfair's Web tier is better suited to small boxes rather than one big box.

"You can actually feel less heat coming from the [Opteron] servers despite equivalent performance to Intel machines," Moss said when comparing the heat output from AMD and Intel systems.

Betfair has been running Linux on its Web tier for the past three years and Moss said it is performing "very well". The company has 25 of the Opteron servers running Red Hat Enterprise 4 with the JBoss J2EE middleware.

The Linux infrastructure also runs half of the business logic.

All software is developed in the UK in Java, which Moss said was more mature than .Net when it moved from ASP over three years ago.

For storage, Betfair's tier-1 system is supplied by Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) which houses the transaction database, and for tier-2 storage like logs, and the data warehouse, NetApp is the preferred vendor.

There is about 22TB of both HDS and NetApp storage capacity, he said.

Moss said he has been lucky that there are some highly-skilled IT people in Tasmania because there aren't many specialist IT companies.

"There are a lot of people with a range of skills," he said. "Two-thirds of the IT staff are local with the rest from the mainland, and we will buy support and software from local companies."

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