Sportingbet scraps polling and rolls out push-based architecture

Major online betting website, Sportingbet, is in the process of scrapping its polling architecture in favour of a push-based architecture, in a bid to reduce bandwidth and provide its customers with a better experience when gambling on live events.


Major online betting website, Sportingbet, is in the process of scrapping its polling architecture in favour of a push-based architecture, in a bid to reduce bandwidth and provide its customers with a better experience when gambling on live events.

Computerworld UK spoke to Andrew Coates, enterprise integration architect at Sportingbet, who explained that by implementing Push Technology Diffusion servers, tens of thousands of customers who are betting online will be able to receive more accurate data, more efficiently, during live events.

“We had several challenges that we were looking to solve. A reduction in bandwidth was a big concern for us, because we wanted to bring down our operational expenditure. We also wanted to improve the customer experience by reducing the mean time to allow an update coming through,” said Coates.

“This is an ongoing process. We haven’t solved all the problems yet, but Diffusion is helping us get there.”

At the moment Sportingbet has implemented Diffusion for its most volatile data – in-play betting. So, for example, if a customer was looking at a football match that was currently in play, Sportingbet might have a match price market for which team is going to win and for each of the opportunities there would be a price associated with them. There might also be a handicap and a status (betting availability) associated with the match.

All of this information changes frequently during the lifetime of the event. Previously, Sportingbet had been using polling to deliver this live data to its customers, which relies on the web browser periodically requesting all the information from the web server for updated data. This can be heavy on a company’s bandwidth, expensive, and can cause problems for the consumer.

Diffusion works by allowing the client’s browser to initiate a connection with its server and then simply providing updates. Essentially, it provides the customer with an initial snapshot of the data and then continually feeds updates to this information.

Sportingbet went live with Diffusion for its in-play betting at the beginning of the year, and took approximately six months to implement. The company predicts that once the Diffusion technology is used across most of the website, for the majority of betting and delivery of data to customers, it will result in a 90 percent reduction in bandwidth consumption.

Coates explained the core benefits for Sportingbet.

“One of the strong points to Diffusion when using web based technologies is that it can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, in terms of picking the best transport technology available to the browser or the machine in question,” he said.

“So if you are on spanking new browser it will use web sockets, but if not it will downgrade to Flash. If it is on an older version it will download to Silverlight, or go all the way down to basic HTTP polling. Then there is the added benefit of only sending the data that has changed, not just a fresh snapshot of the data.” 

The ability for Diffusion to downgrade depending on the browser was critical for Sportingbet which, according to Coates, has a lot of customers in growing markets, such as Brazil, where they are using older browsers.

He added: “For our customers they will get price updates quicker, which means there is less chance of them placing a bet that will fail because the market has moved underneath them before the bet has been placed. It also has a more modern user interface – customers do not expect to have to refresh the page.”

Sportingbet is planning to roll out Diffusion to provide most of its market data to customers, but focused on in-play betting initially because it was a ‘quick win’. Coates said that the only problem with implementing the Push servers was integrating with its own purpose built in-memory systems.

However, Coates also said that he is aware of other companies in the betting industry that are using Diffusion, which means that if Sportingbet now decides to integrate its systems with others in the online betting business, this will be made much easier.

Coates also explained that Diffusion has a good feature set around conflation, which allows for the intelligent allocation of data to a customer when betting on a mobile via a 3G connection.

“Imagine a situation where you are pushing out price updates on a browser that is running on a mobile phone, but the 3G connection keeps cutting in and out. Diffusion is handling all that for you. If the client browser device can’t receive those messages quickly enough, the server will start queuing those messages,” said Coates.

“Not only that, but for the prices that go out of date during that time, Diffusion will bin these and only provide the price changes the customer is interested in.”

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