Online digital entertainment company bwin.party provides innovative offerings to nearly 2 million people. To facilitate growth and deliver reliable services regardless of system demand, bwin.party needed a new mission-critical database solution.
After evaluating options, bwin.party upgraded its systems to Microsoft SQL Server 2012. By doing so, the company can render a report that used to take 17 minutes in just three seconds. It can also scale servers to support a virtually unlimited number of transactions
and clients—quickly and affordably. In addition, bwin.party can maintain multiple system copies in different locations, offload demand from production servers with secondary databases, speed system failover, restructure data for faster access, and simplify
development. The company also expects to increase availability to 99.99 percent, cut total cost of ownership, and boost efficiency.
Every day, hundreds of thousands of people visit bwin.party to take advantage of a wide range of online gambling offerings including sports betting, casino games, and poker. In the first six months of 2011, bwin.party generated net revenues of €387.9 million
(U.S.$493 million); it also realized clean earnings—before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA)—of €81.9 million (U.S.$104 million).
||With SQL Server 2012, our performance is so consistent that right now we can scale our systems to the limit of the hardware available to us, which supports 20 times our current processing load.
Team Leader of Database Engineering
The success of bwin.party depends on positive customer experiences. Gaming applications need to be fun, fast, and innovative. All offerings must be highly available and secure. “If our main website went offline for an hour, we would lose hundreds of thousands
of euros,” says Wolfgang Kutschera, Team Leader of Database Engineering at bwin.party.
The company’s IT infrastructure includes 4,000 databases that run on several platforms. Before 2011, these two environments ran on 260 instances of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise data management software and the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating
system. The financial system included 15 mirrored databases and one data warehouse with 7 terabytes of information. The gaming system included 30 mirrored databases on 15 server computers with 50 terabytes of data. For business intelligence, employees used
standardized reports generated by Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services and SAP Crystal Reports.
In 2010, the company’s main gaming system was processing 10,000 transactions per second, which was dangerously close to the infrastructure’s limit. “We needed a more scalable solution and we needed it fast,” says Kutschera. “If the United States legalizes online
gambling, our customer base would increase significantly.”
This performance limitation also restricted the level of insight that bwin.party had into financial and gaming data because the existing infrastructure could not support more database queries. Instead, system users had to answer questions and collect business
intelligence using 50 standardized reports that took a total of five to six hours to generate each day. The reports were based primarily on two large tables in the data warehouse: one contained 640 gigabytes (GB) of data in 7 billion rows; the other contained
100 GB of data in 1.6 billion rows.
In addition to needing to boost performance, scalability, and insight, bwin.party wanted to increase overall availability from 99.98 percent to 99.99 percent. Although system failover usually took 10 to 20 seconds, some applications could take 30 minutes to
restore. This was because user logon information was associated with a specific SQL Server instance. When a database failed over to a new instance, IT personnel had to manually associate users’ logon and profile information with the new instance. Another way
that bwin.party could maximize uptime was to maintain multiple copies of each mission-critical system. “If one mirrored server fails, we lose the ability to do maintenance—and we lose having a backup server,” Kutschera explains.
Like all companies, bwin.party also wanted to reduce costs and increase efficiency wherever possible—including development. To date, engineers had to use Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Management Studio to write Transact-SQL (T-SQL) code and the Microsoft
Visual Studio 2010 development system to develop application code with technologies such as the Microsoft .NET Framework.
To address its challenges, bwin.party sought a solution that could immediately address its performance limitation and also increase availability, boost efficiency, and minimize costs.
In January 2010, bwin.party began evaluating leading database platforms for a scalable solution that could support its business growth needs. This included testing a prerelease version of Microsoft SQL Server 2012 at a Microsoft lab in Redmond, Washington.
After an extensive review of various options, bwin.party decided to upgrade its databases to Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise. Not only did the company already use the Microsoft platform, but also, as Kutschera explains, “The support and collaboration
that we have with Microsoft are something that we just don’t have with other vendors. Plus, Microsoft SQL Server costs less than other database solutions.”
||The support and collaboration that we have with Microsoft are something that we just don’t have with other vendors. Plus, Microsoft SQL Server costs less than other database solutions.
Team Leader of Database Engineering
SQL Server 2012 also delivers unique features that bwin.party can use to overcome challenges. For example, with SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn, bwin.party can maintain multiple replicas of mission-critical systems. It can also accelerate overall system performance
by using read-only replica databases to support online transaction processing (OLTP) and tasks such as backup processes. The company can also enhance availability and the efficiency of IT personnel with SQL Server 2012 by taking advantage of the contained
databases capability. With it, user logon information is associated with a particular database regardless of the SQL Server instance that supports it.
In addition, bwin.party can speed data insight by using xVelocity in-memory technologies to restructure data warehouse tables from rows to columns, and by using Power View to facilitate ad-hoc data queries. The company can also increase system performance and
scalability with sequences in SQL Server 2012 by streamlining how new database rows are created—which includes how users IDs are assigned. And, developers can work more effectively with SQL Server Data Tools, because with it, they can use Visual Studio to
work on all code for the Microsoft platform, including T-SQL.
In May 2011, IT personnel began upgrading databases that run the Microsoft platform to SQL Server 2012. All instances of SQL Server 2012 run on Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise and Fujitsu PRIMERGY rack server computers. Gaming applications run on RX900 S1,
RX600 S5, or RX300 S4 servers and financial applications run on RX600 servers. The eight-socket RX900 models feature 1 terabyte of RAM and eight Intel XeonX7560
processors, each with eight cores; the four-socket RX600 models include 256 GB of RAM and four Intel XeonX7560
processors, each with eight cores; and the dual-socket RX300 servers feature 64 GB of RAM and two Intel Xeon E7450 processors, each with four cores.
The upgrade process involves replacing all mirrored configurations with AlwaysOn availability groups. In most cases, a group includes a primary system and two secondary replica databases: one synchronous replica (for mirroring) and one asynchronous replica
(for log shipping). The primary system resides in one data center, and the replicas reside on distinct machines at a second location. To further enhance availability, bwin.party is building a third data center so that each database instance in an availability
group resides at a different location.
By June 2011, the company had upgraded numerous systems to SQL Server 2012 including the data warehouse that supports financial systems. Commenting on the ease of restructuring the data warehouse, Kutschera says, “Changing the database structure to support
xVelocity only took us about 30 minutes. Basically, all we had to do was change some metadata values.”
By June 2012, bwin.party expects to finish upgrading all of its 260 instances of SQL Server to SQL Server 2012. After that, the company plans to expand its use of the Microsoft platform. “In about six months, we think we will migrate some systems that currently
run on other platforms over to SQL Server to take advantage of the new features,” says Kutschera.
||With SQL Server 2012, our applications are offline for only a few seconds during failover. Once we finish implementing SQL Server 2012, we expect to increase the overall availability of our databases and applications to 99.99 percent.
Team Leader of Database Engineering
By implementing SQL Server 2012, bwin.party accelerates reporting by more than 300 percent, delivers the scalability needed to meet demand, increases availability to 99.99 percent, cuts ownership c
osts, and boosts efficiency for customers and employees.
Reduces Reporting Time by up to 99 Percent
Today, its takes employees 99 percent less time to render one mission-critical report and 92 percent less time to render 50 other standardized reports. “By restructuring our warehouse with xVelocity, data loading and reporting are significantly faster,”
says Kutschera. “The large report that used to take 17 minutes to render now takes only three seconds; once our solution is complete, we also expect to generate all of our standardized reports in 30 minutes or less.”
Facilitates Scalability and Growth
The company now has the performance and scalability it needs to facilitate unpredictable demand and rapid growth. “By implementing SQL Server 2012 and capabilities such as sequences, we can now scale our environment to accommodate any load or number of customers
with very minimal development effort,” says Kutschera. “With SQL Server 2012, our performance is so consistent that right now we can scale our systems to the limit of the hardware available to us, which supports 20 times our current processing load.”
Boosts Availability to 99.99 Percent
By using the contained databases feature in SQL Server 2012, bwin.party has increased application availability because IT personnel no longer have to manually update users’ profile information when a database fails over to a new instance. “With SQL Server
2012, our applications are offline for only a few seconds during failover,” says Kutschera. “Once we finish implementing SQL Server 2012, we expect to increase the overall availability of our databases and applications to 99.99 percent.”
Reduces Total Cost of Ownership
With the new solution, the systems at bwin.party fail over at least 70 percent faster. “Previously, it could take 20 seconds for systems to fail over,” says Kutschera. “With SQL Server 2012, we are seeing failover times of only 5 or 6 seconds.”
Because bwin.party can use secondary databases to offload some processing requirements from primary systems, the company can increase hardware utilization, consolidate its infrastructure, and minimize total cost of ownership. Kutschera gives the example,
“Today, we use a stand-alone system to calculate loyalty points. However, once we migrate the loyalty-points processes to a secondary database, we won’t need a dedicated machine for that anymore.” He explains that bwin.party will use secondary databases to
help support demand wherever possible. “By taking full advantage of our secondary databases that run on SQL Server 2012, we can ultimately use less hardware and maintain fewer server instances to run the same load, so we can save money.”
Increases Client and Staff Efficiency
Although bwin.party customers have traditionally enjoyed fast logon times, the company has accelerated user logon processes by up to 80 percent. “User logon used to take about 0.5 seconds,” Kutschera says. “By implementing sequences in SQL Server 2012, user
logon only takes 0.1 seconds.“
Microsoft Server Product Portfolio
In addition, with SQL Server 2012, bwin.party simplifies its infrastructure and boosts the productivity of IT personnel. “Being able to use features in Visual Studio like inline debugging to work on T-SQL code really helps developers,” says Kutschera. “With
SQL Server Data Tools, they have one set of development tools that reduce complexity and improve experience.”
Today, the company’s overall infrastructure is less complex and easier to manage. “With secondary databases, we can significantly streamline production system processes and achieve a new form of load balancing by using read-only secondaries to manage ad-hoc
queries,” explains Kutschera. “Our multiple mirror solution helps us keep the multiple copies in sync without the effort of running complex gap-checking scripts.”
As bwin.party takes advantage of other new solution capabilities such as ad-hoc queries and custom reports, it expects to also accelerate and improve business insight.
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