Betfair has built an in-house transaction processing and event platform, which it says has the capability of processing up to one million transactions per second, a 100-fold increase on previous rates.
The online betting and poker firm said the system, which it called ‘Flywheel’ and which it has been expanding since its prototype in 2006, was important as many bets are placed on the site in high volume by investors closely following changes in odds.
The confidence in its in-house platform contrasts with bookmaker William Hill, which recently scrapped an 'inflexible' in-house technology platform that it said was making it difficult to compete with rivals, and took a £21 million charge on its books as a result.
Matt Carter, director at Betfair’s advanced technology group, said: “A lot of punters don’t know the sport but watch the odds changing. They put in a lot of bets.” Other customers are sports betting fans, who have different demands, spending on average 40 minutes each time they visit the site and studying the sports.
Betfair decided in 2005 to build upon its existing Oracle database by adding its own transaction layer, because the database itself “held all our logic for the betting exchange” but was “difficult to increase in scale”.
Carter added: “Each year we process more transactions than all the previous years added together.”
Betfair itself created the Flywheel platform after deciding there was not a suitable off-the-shelf application that met its requirements. Flywheel also validates bets based on user funds, matches bets, enables customers to view their bets and offers market data on odds.
The platform has allowed for better reliability and manageability, and a lower cost to Betfair per transaction, Carter said. He did not disclose what other developments could be made to enable the business to achieve the full potential of a 100 fold increase in transactional speeds.
Betfair took a modular approach during the rollout, allowing for partial deployments where it was most needed. The focus so far has been on the betting exchange part of the business, where bookkeepers set the odds and do business, and Betfair takes commission on winnings.
Carter said it was “important that we had ambitious targets, even though we did worry at times that we wouldn’t achieve them”. He added that the company had taken time to study its needs and carefully design the application before starting any coding.
Betfair primarily uses open source front end software, based on a JBoss application server, and running on Linux. It uses some off-the-shelf proprietary solutions in the back office, Carter said. Its transaction processing servers are x86 based, but it also has 1,500 other servers across five datacentres.
It employs a large IT force of 400 staff.