Keeping afloat in a sea of big data

2 March 2020

Anthony Liston is head of egaming at Pure Storage. With 12 years in enterprise roles within Cisco and EMC behind him, Liston joined Pure Storage four years ago. In the last two years, his focus has been solely on the gaming industry, seeing 300% growth in the area.

iGaming Business speaks with Pure Storage to discuss the key challenges facing the industry when it comes to data management and analysis

Data has become a commodity in its own right, and the volume of data is increasing year on year.

Additionally, data is now the foundation of many focal points for businesses, especially operators. Whether it’s application performance, customer analysis or product development, data is key.

This is the view of Anthony Liston, head of egaming at Pure Storage, a data solutions company with a focus on delivering a modern data experience.
In an interview with iGaming Business, Liston outlined the challenges global industries face when it comes to data, and how igaming specifically needs to think smart when it comes to data storage and analysis.

He says there are four pillars that are the foundation of any strategy to meet modern expectations and performance demands:

  1. Fast matters - having highly performant and highly available systems that are always on.
  2. Cloud everywhere - having the choice to run businesses and applications on-premise and also on the public cloud, and not feeling that these are siloed.
  3. Simple is smart - with many different technologies, providers and platforms available, being able to consume technology in a simple way is best.
  4. Subscription to innovation - whether the technology or application is in the cloud or on-premise, businesses need the ability to evolve products and applications, and therefore need the technology that underpins them to evolve in the same way.

Moving with the times

With technology developing and changing at such a rapid rate, businesses large and small now have more choice than ever when it comes to platforms, services and solutions.

This in itself creates challenges, which vary based on the size of a company. For instance, Liston says, well-established businesses have been challenged by the fact that M&A   activity and growth brings with it a plethora of legacy platforms and technologies.

“These come from different manufacturers and providers, and there is an inherent and often significant cost with integrating and standardising on common platforms as businesses grow.”

On the other hand, he explains, new entrants to any market are looking for the ability to embrace new technologies, but without the upfront cost of going out and spending millions of pounds on infrastructure and software to build the business.

“They quite often go to the public cloud providers to begin with, because they can procure those services and features as a service in a scalable and durable manner. The flip side is, as their business grows, the balance between that initial easy access to features is then offset against the growing cost of running your business on the public cloud.”

Businesses large and small need to think carefully about their choices, he says - especially within this industry, where opportunities for expansion may present themselves on the other side of the world.

“It’s about thinking about the choices you need to make in order to not find yourself in a  position where you’re stuck with technology or wasted investment as you pursue these expansion opportunities.”

Data as a commodity

With the volume of available data ever on the rise, Liston says that honestly, it’s hard to tell how much is actually valuable: “The challenges that some of our igaming clients identify are that they don’t know how much or what data needs to be stored, just that from a compliance and regulation perspective, it needs to be stored for a certain amount of time.

“Almost every touchpoint between igaming businesses and the customer needs to be recorded and stored for anything up to and beyond seven years. Most businesses are challenged by where and how they store that data in a way that will not become cost prohibitive. If you’re continually growing that island of data, the cost is going to increase year-on-year.”

In order to derive value from that data, therefore, businesses must turn to modern day analytics tools. Liston says Elastic and Splunk are commonly being used to mine data and gain value, rather than “just ticking that compliance box.”

Analysing the opportunity

Ubiquitous in current conversations around data is artificial intelligence (AI), and how the technology can assist in this data analysis and make historically manual tasks more efficient.

Liston echoes this, noting the shift from AI being historically treated as a “bit of a science project” for businesses to now being a palpable solution which creates value for organisations.

“In the last six to twelve months, we’ve seen the tide start to turn. Operators are beginning to embrace AI capabilities to fix business issues, and ultimately generate revenue or retain customers and attract new customers in another aspect.

By way of example, Liston notes that Pure Storage are helping a number of operators to use AI and machine learning to identify fraud and malpractice within poker, as well as in retail gaming, where it can effectively help operators spot problem gamblers using facial recognition technology in real-time.

That real-time element is the key component, he says: “In order to be able to deliver value around something like AI, you need to have a platform that can effectively crunch or digest huge amounts of information very quickly so that the outcomes that you want from the platform can be delivered in real-time.”

Looking to the future, Liston expects that competition will only intensify over the next few years, as new entrants vie with established players to take a slice of the prize pot – the boom that the industry is experiencing.

“As this happens, firms will increasingly look to personalise the customer experience using real-time streaming data and sophisticated machine learning applications to outwit and outpace the competition in the fight to retain and acquire new customers and keep their offers ‘sticky’.

“This is only going one way with regards to data, and legacy technologies and architectures that are not fluid, agile, hugely scalable and performance orientated will not cut the mustard. Winners will be those who begin to invest in modern data experiences, now.”

Register for the upcoming webinar, “How igaming’s commercial success is hindered by data performance”, where Pure Storage will discuss the results of their recent industry survey on how well the industry is being served by data.