Moving from a legacy infrastructure to the cloud

In brief

  • Gamesys needed to create a platform that was more efficient and better suited to all the changes that have happened in the last 10 years. It worked with Red Olive to transition to the cloud.
  • Red Olive is GCP- certified and has experience of moving legacy systems to Google Cloud Platform.
  • Red Olive was extremely cost-effective and used its in-house accelerator to speed up Gamesys’ migration to GCP.
  • The Red Olive Simplified Integration Engine (ROSIE) is a Python-based data transformation engine. It is self-contained and allows companies to use their in-house SQL experience.
  • Implementing GCP with Red Olive’s help enabled Gamesys to offload its non-differentiating work to the cloud, allowing it to focus on the areas that add value to the business.

"Red Olive was cost-effective, had done it before and was GCP certified. It was a no-brainer."

With household names such as Rainbow Riches Casino, Virgin Games and Monopoly Casino in its portfolio, Gamesys Group plc is one of the world’s foremost gaming operators. With more than 25 million players globally across its casino and bingo games, it employs over 1,500 people and reported £415 million in revenue in 2019.

Today, the company is part of the FTSE 250, but parts of the business can trace their history all the way back to 2002. Recently Gamesys started a project to modernise its Excite data platform which supports their UK, Spanish and North American business, enlisting the experts at Red Olive to support it.

The volume of data the company holds is huge. Gamesys has been at the forefront of big data for many years, with everyone in the company used to dealing with data insights and making commercial decisions based on the behaviour of its customers.

Robin Hayden, Chief Data Officer at Gamesys, explains: “As a gambling company, we have a large amount of transactional data. A single spin on a slot could cost as little as 2p. With hundreds of millions in revenue and millions of accounts, that is a huge number of events that gives us a very granular view of our player base.

“We use data for everything from optimising marketing and personalisation of the site to fraud detection and caring for our players. We make sure that the experience remains safe and enjoyable for our customers, so we have built a combination of machine learning models and carefully crafted data driven rules to predict when we need to suppress marketing or intervene and talk to players to ensure their play remains fun and doesn’t develop into a problem.”

Gamesys Brands

Taking a different approach

This level of data has not been accumulated without problems, however. Like any data-centred company with nearly 20 years of history, there was a large legacy to contend with. The data warehouse was over ten years old, and it was time to move on and remove the overhead in maintaining the old platform.

Robin explains the context of the project further: “A traditional way to do a large transformation like this would be to focus the whole team on the transformation for a year or two. I have been in other businesses where they accepted that, for next year, the rest of the business won’t get many new features and new capabilities. We couldn’t do that.

“In the early stages of planning, we found out that we were being acquired. That meant we effectively had to merge two companies as well as launch new ventures. There was also a massive amount of regulatory change in the UK. Then of course COVID-19 came along, which in itself was a big deal.

“All of that meant that we decided to put revenue first with 75% of our day to day efforts focussed on business defined features and requests and 25% of our efforts reserved for platform transform.”

Moving to the cloud

“We needed to create a platform that was more efficient and something that was better suited to all the changes that have happened in the last 10 years. For us, that meant moving to the cloud.

“You can treat the cloud like an infinite resource, providing you manage costs carefully. Because you don’t have fixed resources, you can scale up and down as necessary. When demand peaks at a busy time of the month, your platform can just scale up seamlessly and protect your customer’s experience.

“The cloud brings other benefits, such as the ability to evolve very quickly. Historically, when you wanted to add something new in a traditional estate, you had to go into a long process and negotiate for new equipment, with a lot of upfront commitment before you could do anything. Whereas in the cloud, you can experiment and evolve your capability quickly, making you more competitive.

“We are a gaming company, not a data centre provider. We wanted to remove as much of that non-gaming focussed work as possible. Anything that is two or three times removed from producing games and marketing them, such as installing a server, is just a distraction.”

Google logo in lights

Cost-effective, experienced and GCP-certified

Choosing Red Olive to help on this project was an easy decision, Robin says: “I had worked with Red Olive before when I was at The Telegraph, where the team helped move the systems from a traditional warehousing platform to the cloud.

“We had chosen Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to start our journey away from our existing IBM Db2 solution. Google’s offering is very aligned with what we wanted, which is for the cloud provider to do most of the routine work for us. With GCP, you do no management of the actual database cluster, for example, and the flagship products such as BigQuery are very friendly to use. Red Olive is GCP certified, so its team really understands the platform.

“Red Olive was also the most cost-effective consultancy we saw. We approached other consultancies about this project, and they were very ‘consultancy like’. They were very non-specific about what we would get, and there was a lot of upfront cost just to discover what it was they were going to do with us. Red Olive gave us specific answers to the questions we asked and a clear path to the goal I wanted. Red Olive was cost-effective, had done it before and was GCP certified. It was a no-brainer.”

Red Olive used its in-house developed accelerator to speed up Gamesys’ migration to GCP. The Red Olive Simplified Integration Engine (ROSIE) is a Python-based data transformation engine that runs inside a container, so it is self-contained and won’t interfere with the wider technology environment. It significantly reduces the time and cost needed to make the switch to the GCP by allowing companies to use the SQL experience of their in-house teams. Typically, when making a switch to the GCP, organisations can waste weeks re-training their staff to write scripts for the new cloud platform, along with spending big sums to hire contractors to do the work for them. ROSIE allowed the Gamesys team to use the SQL skills they had developed over decades to complete the work. As well as enabling Gamesys to deliver results faster, ROSIE formed the basis for the ETL engine that Gamesys now has in place throughout the company.

Monopoly Virgin Games

Growing revenue while transforming

Gamesys is approaching the end of the first phase of the project. With a hybrid cloud solution now in place, it is likely to be a journey that takes a few years to complete. Robin sees this as a good thing: “Migrating all of our data in one go would have been an enormous exercise and it would have been impossible to service all the business requirements we did at the same time. This approach significantly reduced the business risk. The first stage was to get our highest volume, highest value data onto the cloud. That involved taking our revenue centric reports and targeting those first. That represented about 25% of our reports.

“Doing those reports first meant we built the data streams that provide all of the revenue information, which represented the lion’s share of the data volume in the legacy warehouse. We have also set up an event-based architecture, so we have our data landing in near real time onto our data platform. That has provided the foundation for future phases. Now we can start to broaden the scope to some of our automated marketing processes.

“Implementing GCP with Red Olive’s help enabled us to offload our non-differentiating work to the cloud, allowing us to focus on the areas that add value to the business. Now this change is underway, our ability to release new capabilities and new data products will increase, and our ability to scale reliably has improved which allows us to scale seamlessly as our business grows.

“Ultimately, we have merged 2 companies, launched new ventures and continued to grow market share and revenue while achieving a significant portion of the data platform transformation. That counts as a success in our book.”

For a better understanding of the data you hold, and how it can help drive your business forward or for more information on Red Olive’s new accelerator, call Red Olive today on 0203 282 7570 or email hello@red-olive.co.uk

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