Bet365 solves storage scalability bottleneck with SwiftStack object storage

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Image: Flickr Creative Commons/Carine06

Online gambling business Bet365 might be based in the United Kingdom, but the firm serves more than 21 million customers worldwide – so it eats a great deal of data. That’s why the company is making its first move into object storage with OpenStack-based provider SwiftStack on commodity servers.

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“Operationally, the business as a whole grows in double digits in percentage terms, and continually growing at that scale proves challenging with infrastructure,” James Nightingale, principal systems architect at Bet365, tells Computerworld UK. “And so we really wanted that ability to elastically extend certain lower-tier storage.”

The business currently has over three petabytes of block storage running on SAN and NAS systems – an expensive approach to storage that’s also tough to scale.

According to Nightingale: “The current business challenge isn’t ‘I have a problem generating data or even interrogating that data, I have a problem storing that data’. I want to use that data, I just don’t have the means to be able to hold that data.”

Bet365 picked the SwiftStack S3 middleware to make the storage appear like AWS S3 – and will be hosting immutable non-transactional data, such as streaming video, master and backup images, plus backup and archive data.

“We do a lot of media streaming, we have a lot of static content, and we produce an awful lot of backup and static immutable data,” Nightingale explains. "These are the key things we’re identifying.”

“The key is about creating something we don’t have to keep bolting on and coming across the next scalability issue,” Nightingale explains. “We have to feel confident that we can keep scaling up.

“As the business keeps growing, there will be new challenges in new locations – ‘we want to be trading in this jurisdiction but we need to put data there’ – hopefully the plan is that this solution will scale massively in terms of size and also in terms of geographic reach.”

The deployment is currently running at two of Bet365’s sites. But the business has 14 data centres in total, and the idea of the design is that it should be able to accommodate any data centre with the one SwiftStack cluster over time.

SwiftStack “might be taking some storage away from our NAS environment, but it’s absolutely to complement our existing storage offerings,” Nightingale says. “We’ve started to misuse some of our existing infrastructure, and the best way to fill that is to introduce a new technology to accommodate those new requirements.”

Bet365 began looking at object storage about a year ago. The company tested three products over an extensive proof of concept that lasted six months in total. “We scoured the market and talked to lots of people,” Nightingale says. “We then did an on-site POC – so the actual, hardcore testing we dedicated two weeks to each of the three products.”

The other two products – Red Hat Ceph and Riak CS – were “really good in performance and scalability” but “just a little too complex.”

“What we found was to get some of the geographic reach, we couldn’t do that without making it very complicated,” Nightingale says. “We couldn’t give ourselves the ability to scale out geographically without a very complex solution.”

Read next: OpenStack enterprise users: Nine businesses using the open-source cloud platform

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