RealTime IT News

PartyGaming Bets on Open Source

Do people still gamble even in a recession?

Apparently, they do -- and in such numbers that it requires a speedy, powerful transaction and gaming system. At least, that's the view of online global gambling giant PartyGaming.

Of course, reducing costs during an economic slowdown is critical for any business. But the current economic climate isn't the only obstacle that PartyGaming has overcome: The U.S. ban on online gambling sites also impacted the company, but it's dealing with the ban by diversifying its gaming base and scaling up its operations with open source software from Teracotta.

PartyGaming claims that, over the past year, it's been able to improve the customer experience and increase its speed by offloading transactions to the Teracotta system, which offers clustering for Java applications.

It's an approach that could also yield benefits to other sites as all verticals struggle to deliver increasing levels of service while reducing costs.

"They're big users of open source software, in a variety of forms," Jeff Hartley, vice president of marketing and products at Terracotta, told InternetNews.com. "In my view, PartyGaming sees open source as an excellent production and distribution model for infrastructure software. Terracotta is a case in point. We're open source, yet one of PartyGaming's strategic technologies that it is being used across a number of applications."

Terracotta develops an open source system that lets users coordinate and share data between servers with an approach called Network-Attached Memory (NAM). With NAM, Java Virtual Machines are clustered underneath applications, offloading processing and increasing transactional efficiency.

For PartyGaming, the system sits on top of its proprietary code base of games that include sports betting, poker and blackjack, among others.

That architecture has become key to ensuring that PartyGaming can roll with the punches.

John Shepherd, director of corporate communications for PartyGaming, explained that after the U.S. ban on online gambling sites went into effect in 2006, PartyGaming lost 75 percent of its business. At that time, more than 80 percent of PartyGaming's business was in the game of poker, played in English and denominated in U.S. dollars. PartyGaming has since diversified to multiple games, languages and currencies, which adds more transactions to the underlying application servers.

Shepherd said that for each game, there are multiple people making bets and there are always multiple games going on at any given time. It adds up to what he describes as enormous amounts of data and a lot of transactions.

But by offloading the transactions to Terracotta, Shepherd said it speeds up the gaming applications, which is key for the business.

As to the exact particulars of how the whole PartyGaming platform is built and delivered, Shepherd keeps his cards close to the vest.

"The online gaming industry is probably the most competitive market," he said. "You mention too much detail and competitors will jump on that."

He did note, however, that PartyGaming uses a combination of off-the-shelf software while also employing what Shepherd referred to as "an army of developers."

In Shepherd's view, the fact that Terracotta is open source was largely irrelevant. Instead, it was the value that Terracotta delivers that became the reason why PartyGaming chose its software.

Still, the PartyGaming implementation of Terracotta may be indirectly benefitting open source users. Terracotta's Hartley said that working with PartyGaming has been a great learning experience.

"We take the lessons we learn and reinvest the knowledge in the product, so our customers can benefit from even further cost savings by reducing their dependence on databases and reducing the amount of code they need to write and test," Hartley said.

"Not all improvements are necessarily direct code contributions, but the fact that the source code is available makes it easier for customers and our own engineers to collaborate on approaches to problem resolution, and in developing new features."