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Betfair cuts development time with server virtualisation

Antony Savvas

Betfair has embraced server virtualisation to improve IT usage and increase speed of application deployment.

The betting firm is using ControlCircle for datacentre services to support the project. Server virtualisation allows more applications to be tested and run on a single machine.

As a result, a utility computing model means time to market for new applications is up to six weeks faster.

Virtualisation also means IT assets are better exploited, with IT spending curtailed as over-provisioning is avoided and less power consumed.

As part of the plan, a separate datacentre was established for Betfair within weeks by ControlCircle, so that virtual environments can be set up and tested.

With more than one million registered customers, Betfair handles more than 300 bets a second and five million transactions a day. It says it has taken about 1,000 man years to build its Java-written bespoke exchange, with an investment of £75m.

Nick Laflin, Betfair utility computing programme manager, said, "In the past, every time we launched a new application, new hardware would be deployed. Datacentres are often notoriously under-utilised, with some server resources remaining idle for 85% of the time.

"This is due to over provisioning where more hardware is bought to handle peak traffic demand. We are looking carefully at how virtualisation can help avoid this while increasing flexibility and saving costs for the company."

Using server virtualisation software, Betfair's goal is to rapidly provision virtual machines and allocate capacity to support specific sporting events, for example, or allow applications and services to be easily moved as required between its datacentres around the world.

Laflin said, "The old model was like an arms race. As new applications were launched, it meant more and more physical hardware and more and more datacentre space and more and more cost. Given Betfair's exponential growth, this is not sustainable. Virtualisation will allow us to sweat assets and increase efficiency."

ControlCircle is providing space in London to facilitate test projects. Laflin said, "We would have been too constrained trying to test virtualised systems in a production datacentre environment, so ControlCircle has quickly given us greenfield space and the flexibility to do this, in the timescale we wanted, which was within a month."

Initially, ControlCircle is providing Betfair seven racks for the test environment (four for networking technology and three for servers), cabling and installation services, and connectivity to other Betfair infrastructure.

Having implemented production systems abroad, Betfair is now virtualising application programming interface test systems used by third parties who write and develop software which links into its sports exchange. This allows companies or individuals to review how changes, additional functionality or new software will behave in a live context.

Laflin said, "It is early days in terms of virtualisation projects within production, but we have an 18-month roadmap and expect to virtualise as many systems as is practicable."


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