Tabcorp moves apps to services layer

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Tabcorp moves apps to services layer

Looks to educate regulator on private cloud.

Wagering company Tabcorp has cut its application development time by more than 40 percent after an 18-month, $10 million move to a services-oriented architecture (SOA).

The listed company last year engaged Accenture to deploy an Oracle software stack, including a service bus and database.

It moved its Flash-based website onto the new stack in February, and its HTML mobile site and applications in the past three months.

Chief information officer Kim Wenn said the company would “progressively move every customer touchpoint” to the new environment, including its retail terminals and 600-seat call centre.

“We put this in to be able to deliver new products more rapidly,” she said, noting that applications that once took nine months to deliver were now delivered in five months.

“A couple of years ago, we had different applications for every terminal and website. This [SOA] lets us build things once and reuse components.”

Wenn oversees a 250-person IT team with portfolio management, application development and testing, architecture, service delivery, governance and vendor management responsibilities.

The organisation has recently moved to in-source application operations and IT security, which Wenn described as “areas of competitive advantage”.

Online transactions now account for 21 percent of Tabcorp’s revenue, Wenn said, and that fraction was “growing rapidly”.

In its annual report last month, Tabcorp said a multi-channel, retail, online and mobile strategy was “core to [its] wagering business”.

It reported an online turnover of $2.16 billion, up 14.5 percent from the year prior.

“The landscape is changing … as a country, we are getting more technology savvy,” Wenn said. “Our customers are demanding real-time information and expect to be able to transact on any channel with a single wallet.”

A private cloud for development and testing

Tabcorp’s infrastructure is housed in three data centres – one in Melbourne and two in the Sydney CBD – and managed by HP under a two-year-old contract.

In April last year, Tabcorp Group CTO Simon Page said the company replaced a mix of mainframe, mid-range and x86 systems with virtualised Cisco, Nexus and NetApp hardware.

The company has since deployed a $7 million private cloud for testing and development.

Wenn said the private cloud was deployed about six months ago, and expected it to achieve a return on investment in another year’s time.

She said the company also hoped to use a private cloud for production but had yet to win regulatory approval and work through some internal concerns.

Tabcorp typically froze all IT changes between about September 1 and November 15 for a wagering season that began with the Australian Football League’s Brownlow Medal and concluded with the Sandown Cup in Melbourne.

“If you’re reallocating capacity [under a private cloud model], that’s a change,” Wenn said. “We’re still working on risk assessments and how to mitigate that.”

If approved, the private cloud model could allow Tabcorp to share infrastructure across its wagering platform and business applications for more efficient utilisation.

Tabcorp currently runs enough IT infrastructure for up to 130 percent of what it expects to need for the Melbourne Cup, which last year attracted 56.4 million transactions across all channels and $93 million in revenue.

It only needs between 5 and 7 percent of that capacity on a day-to-day basis.

Wenn hoped to win regulators over to the more flexible private cloud model within the next six months.

“I honestly believe it’s just a matter of education,” she said. “A few years ago, the regulator wouldn’t let us operate on a SAN … They understand commercial concerns.”

Any regulatory changes could also benefit gaming company Tatts Group, which has been unable virtualise many of its production systems due to government requirements.

“In South Australia, regulators come and visit us at least once, twice a year,” Tatts Group chief information officer Brent Hasler told iTnews last month.

“What they want to see is that the serial number on the box hasn’t changed, the amount of memory, the hardware, we’ve got in the box is still the same. That’s very hard to manage in a virtualised environment.”

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