bet365 maintains speed and efficiency of customer experience with Citrix NetScaler

bet365 is a  leading e-Gaming company and  driving force in the development of enterprise and internet technology. Established in 2001 from a portakabin in Stoke-on-Trent, bet365 has grown into a global operation that employs over 2,000 people, is live in 17 languages and delivers an unrivalled online experience to over nine million customers worldwide. Giving its development teams the freedom to innovate is key to bet365’s success. The company has worked hard to cultivate a culture of innovation where good ideas and a techno-entrepreneurial attitude are encouraged and rewarded. Today bet365 continues to push technological boundaries and break new ground in software innovation.

The Challenge: Managing website traffic to deliver instant returns

bet365 is the industry’s leading provider of In-Play betting, which requires the delivery of a continuous stream of real-time information, whilst simultaneously receiving and processing a huge amount of incoming customer data.

The bet365 website currently handles tens of millions transactions per day. Given the nature of online sports gambling, most of bet365’s website traffic occurs in time-sensitive peaks. bet365’s In-Play product, for example, allows customers to bet on events in real time from an extensive range of live markets. As such, bet365 must be able to handle thousands of changes per second with minimal latency.

Chris Tolson, Chief Platform Architect, commented: “bet365 is an online company and therefore the company is the website. Our IT operations are very exposed and if there are problems, we can frustrate our customers and potentially lose them. Customer service is the absolute cornerstone of bet365 and our website performance has to be the very best possible at all times.”

With its rapid growth and dedication to customer service, bet365 makes website performance optimization a continual top priority.

“Balancing CPU usage across databases was becoming complicated and time consuming” continued Tolson. “Even standard maintenance, such as patching, was proving difficult.”

In addressing the company’s content delivery challenges, Tolson set three objectives: scale horizontally to have flat CPU usage across all read-only SQL Server databases;  guarantee automatic failover, should a server go down; and ensure business as usual during routine maintenance.

Implementing Citrix NetScaler

bet365 had used Citrix® Netscaler® for over six years to accelerate website performance. Tolson, along with bet365’s database administrators and website teams, met with Citrix to discuss how Netscaler could support bet365’s content delivery challenge.

Citrix offers a dedicated, highly-trained single point of contact as part of a technical support agreement. “We get excellent value from our technical relationship manager, which is quite a differentiator from most other vendors,” commented Tolson. “Citrix has been very good at soliciting, listening to and acting upon our feedback. We are part of the permanent beta programme, which allows us to comment on Citrix products and advise on how things can operate better. bet365 has both very unusual and complex requirements, which makes us an incredibly demanding customer.”

The key to fulfilling Tolson’s objectives proved to be NetScaler DataStream technology, as it could cost effectively support the scalability, performance and availability of bet365’s read-only SQL server databases.

Alongside a new estate of commodity servers, with a mid-size configuration and solid state storage, around 90 per cent of bet365’s content is now delivered using NetScaler DataStream. Able to distinguish between read and write requests, NetScaler DataStream enables advanced load balancing and health monitoring policies to deliver an outstanding betting service to bet365’s customers. It also helps protect against service disruptions in the event of a hardware failure or planned maintenance using a virtual IP address assigned to the master node which is switched over to a secondary node upon heartbeat/monitor failure.

NetScaler DataStream technology significantly improves connection handling, which takes a substantial load off the web server and, in turn, aids overall website performance. The SQL connection offload, with SQL load balancing, delivers high performance for online transaction processing (OLTP) and allows bet365 to scale-out in the future to expand website capacity with no increase in latency.

“Integrated caching was the key reason for originally choosing NetScaler,” recalled Tolson. “Over the years NetScaler has stayed ahead of alternatives, with useful functionality such as HTTP call out, compression and security features. It’s always given us both the ability and agility to do what we need.

“The Netscaler Datastream technology is another huge step change. It plays a key role in maintaining the performance of the website, which is crucial for attracting and keeping customers, and helps make the infrastructure behind it more efficient and stable. Customers, the IT network, and our IT people have all benefited.”

Faster returns from NetScaler

The introduction of NetScaler Datastream has reduced the number of content delivery related server-side connections from around 2000 down to 100 as it combines hundreds of requests into a few long-lived SQL connections and offloading SQL servers from connection management tasks.

It has also changed the work profile for the company’s database administrators. Reactive load balancing is now fully automated. This allows the team to be more productive and focus on more important projects.

For such a large project, planning and implementation was extremely fast. bet365 operates an infrastructure department, which brings DBAs, network architects and IT administrators under one roof, allowing the company to be far better aligned than most. “The Netscaler DataStream implementation crosses database administrators, network infrastructure and IT. Without a doubt, our structure has been a critical part of this initiative’s success.” said Tolson.

“Netscaler DataStream offers a proven solution to improving and maintaining the service customers receive from bet365,” concluded Tolson. “Native SQL protocol support gives us intelligent traffic and connection management, as well as high availability and automated IP failover on commodity hardware. It operates across our website, network and back-end to give us significant strength and depth in ensuring our customers get the best service possible.”

About Citrix

Citrix  (NASDAQ:CTXS) is the company transforming how people, businesses and IT work and collaborate in the cloud era.  With market-leading cloud, collaboration, networking and virtualization technologies, Citrix powers mobile work styles and cloud services, making complex enterprise IT simpler and more accessible for 260,000 enterprises.  Citrix touches 75 percent of Internet users each day and partners with more than 10,000 companies in 100 countries.  Annual revenue in 2011 was $2.21 billion.  Learn more at www.citrix.com.   

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NetScaler DataStream operates across our website, network and back-end to give us significant strength and depth, ensuring our customers get the best service possible.
- Chris Tolson

Chief Platform Architect

bet365

Key Benefits

  • Frees up 50 per cent of DBAs’ time
  • Ensures performance should a database fail
  • Supports planned maintenance

Applications Delivered

  • Microsoft SQL Server database
  • Content Management System

Citrix Products