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FanDuel has halved its monthly infrastructure spend and saved millions of dollars in potential lost entry fees thanks to AWS and its elasticity to deal with spikes in demand over the weekend, according to CTO Robin Spira.

FanDuel is a daily fantasy sports site with six million registered users who select a ‘dream team’ in a selected sport who collect points for actions in games (touchdowns, goals etc). Users can play against friends or for cash prizes that can rack up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Elastic infrastructure

Speaking at the AWS Summit in London last week, Spira laid out the technical issue that spikes in usage brings: “NFL presents by far our biggest test. We tick along at less than 100 transactions a minute most of the time and it suddenly spikes to thousands of transactions a second for a few brief periods on a Sunday, with a high percentage of our users placing entries and editing their teams moments before the game.”

Previously FanDuel would have had to just pay for the infrastructure by hosting servers that would cost the company money all year round.

“We are now built on a service oriented platform hosted on virtual infrastructure at Amazon. This allows us to scale up and run the infrastructure only for the time that we need it, which in some cases is literally minutes,” said Spira.

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AWS cloud infrastructure is a perfect fit for a startups like FanDuel thanks to its pay-as-you-go pricing. FanDuel can ramp its usage up and down as demand changes, saving the business huge sums in infrastructure costs. No wonder AWS likes to put the startup on stage in front of 5,000 people at its biggest European summit.

Taking a caching approach to scaling wouldn’t have worked for FanDuel as it is a “highly write and compute intensive platform,” said Spira. The CTO uses a whole host of AWS tools beyond infrastructure though.

AWS toolkit

“At the core is CloudFormation,” said Spira, “which gives us the ability to instantly duplicate our infrastructure and platform. This helps to manage over one hundred development environments and provides a cost effective way to manage our production and disaster recovery infrastructure across multiple regions.”

Aside from infrastructure FanDuel uses S3 for storage and CloudFront for content delivery. For database it uses Amazon’s RDS relational database and the NoSQL DynamoDB.

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In terms of beta products that FanDuel is interested in, the Aurora database has already saved the company millions of dollars in potentially lost revenues.

“In very simple terms it takes RDS to the next level,” said Spira. “For FanDuel that means vastly improved recovery time and recovery point objectives in ways that have a significant business impact, saving up to $1.5 million of potentially lost entry fees versus the equivalent RDS set up if there is an issue at just the wrong moment.

"Whilst this is quite an extreme example, Amazon Aurora also helps with scaling and capacity planning in the form of elastic storage and up to five times improvement in write performance.”

Premier League

The UK tech unicorn has been working on a Premier League option for its popular daily fantasy sports app since 2014 but is only now launching in the UK market due to licensing issues. It has previously focused on the US market with sports like basketball, ice hockey and its most popular game: daily fantasy NFL.

Rival firm DraftKings launched in the UK last year, and its stands and representatives could be seen at the three UK NFL games last year trying to attract new users to the platform as daily fantasy seeks a footing in the UK market.

The industry itself has dealt with some controversy and bad PR over the last year amid claims of insider trading, leading to the New York attorney general going to war with daily fantasy sports as he believes it to be online gambling, not gaming, which is illegal in the majority of states.

FanDuel has raised more than £233 million ($363 million) in funding and is valued at over $1bn.

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