Now is the time for a tech check-up

19 May 2020

Much of the gambling industry has ground to a halt as a result of novel coronavirus (Covid-19). However, this can be used as an opportunity to upgrade and enhance underlying technology, allowing operators to future-proof their systems, says DataArt's Russell Karp.

The global pandemic has caused the mothballing of numerous businesses as attempts are made to limit the spread of the virus. This has led to most of the land-based gaming industry shutting down – with no end in sight at the time of writing.

The gambling industry, and the media and entertainment industries as a whole, are searching for answers on how to properly deal with these challenging times. Well, this could be an excellent opportunity to take a step back to re-evaluate technology and implement and execute strategic initiatives that could make a disruption when the doors open once again.

Companies that have their systems in order and can invest in technologies will realise a competitive advantage when quarantine measures are lifted. This approach will not only have a positive effect on the bottom line but will also leave companies in an excellent position if something of this nature reoccurs.

Furthermore, the current situation is the perfect opportunity to put into place a plan to upgrade technology. This will not only benefit customers but also your organisation.

Once you have decided to expand your online offerings, there is a high probability that your legacy systems will come up short in terms of their ability to handle the increased demands. It's also important to understand that legacy, in this context, doesn't necessarily mean old. You could have relatively modern systems with deprecated technologies or solutions that can't keep up with your current needs.

Running an igaming operation on ageing software does not bode well for a successful launch or expansion of online initiatives. Even if you can operate with these technological constraints, legacy systems can hamstring your technology stack and limit company growth.

Scalability is therefore important in order to continually add new features to your website and to seamlessly process customer requests. Updating your legacy systems is a crucial part of creating modern gambling and sports betting solutions.

It doesn't have to be difficult and nor do you need to wait until lockdown is over. By modernising your legacy systems you will future-proof your business. You will be able to handle more customers, run more analytics and data-mining opportunities, and keep your customers happy.

You do not have to opt for a complete overhaul, replacing all your legacy tech with newer systems, right away. But taking this time for a technical check-up of all your systems and strategically updating key components is the proper way to move forward.

Offering a better user experience and scalability aren’t the only advantages that come with updating your legacy systems. If you are running your business on older or unsupported tech, there are a host of issues that you could run into.

Security
Legacy systems can come with a huge array of security issues. A security breach can severely negatively impact the reputation of your business. This is only made worse when you are expanding your online offerings and increasing the number of people whose data would be compromised in the event of an attack.

The problem with legacy technologies is that eventually vendors stop supporting them. You are then stuck with frameworks and libraries that no longer receive critical security updates.

Those looking to compromise a system are well aware of the security loopholes in these unsupported legacy products and they become a magnet for cybercrime. Keeping your hardware and software updated is a vital strategy when increasing online presence.

In the gambling industry, where each bet and transaction is valuable, it is extremely important for any system to efficiently handle large transaction volumes and maintain resistance to cyberattacks. Most legacy monolithic systems can't provide enough resiliency due to outdated design and implementation imperfections.

It becomes a tremendous challenge to deliver new functionality and ongoing support can prove costly. Additionally, the probability of downtime is higher and can potentially lead to lost revenue and unhappy clients.

We recently carried out performance testing on a monolithic legacy system for one of our clients and identified a few vulnerable areas that could potentially cause dramatic downtime and loss of customer data.

This exercise also gave us a good understanding of their architecture and how to improve it by implementing microservices. As a result, the new microservice architecture integrated with a lightweight message broker which allowed us to deliver important business features 2-3 times faster and handle a bigger transaction load without data loss.

Integration difficulties
As you expand your online gaming choices, you will have to embrace some new technical challenges. Typically, new software requires integration with legacy systems and databases. If your technology stack is outdated then integration will be challenging and you might not be able to optimally architect your integration jobs. Therefore, it is critical to implement upgrades with scalability and flexibility in mind in order to avoid future limitations.

Trouble finding knowledgeable staff
As technologies age, they are replaced by newer technologies. When a piece of technology gets too old, there are no longer any people actively engaged with them and fewer who support them. This could prove costly from both a financial and growth perspective.

This problem most often occurs with a key component of the technology stack and is hardest to replace without disruptions. Hence, the unfortunate downtime we are currently facing is an excellent opportunity to replace these types of systems since risk will be low.

Conclusion
Hanging on to legacy technology and not changing with the times is always something that holds businesses back. Never is it more evident than when there is an emergency that changes the way the world does business. Many businesses were caught by surprise by the coronavirus outbreak and found that they did not have the technology in place to adapt quickly.

Those in the gaming industry can learn from this experience by finding a technology partner that will future-proof their operations for a long time to come.

Russell Karp is vice-president of media and entertainment at DataArt, a global technology consultancy that designs, develops and supports unique software solutions for its clients. Recognized for deep-domain expertise and superior technical talent in creating new products and modernizing complex legacy systems, DataArt has been partnering with global sports-betting companies for almost a decade. During that time, the firm has helped operators significantly change the sports-betting market by offering broader choices and better pricing to their customers. Clients include Paddy Power Betfair, Evolution Gaming, Glück Games and Playtech.