The IT systems of Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA) are off and racing in time for this year’s Melbourne Cup, the culmination of a four-year modernisation program that includes the implementation of a Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) and intelligent network.
The Melbourne Cup may be the race that stops a nation, but RWWA chief information officer, Glen Fee, and his team have been working overtime to ensure the organisation, which is responsible for the TAB in the state, has flexible IT systems that cope with up to 3000 transactions per second.
The organisation’s modernisation program has four main components — a state-wide network upgrade from a legacy systems network architecture to an IP network, the implementation of self-service touch screen terminals to TABs throughout WA, and the replacement of the wagering terminals and bet engine, and the decommission of its mainframe.
“We renewed everything at the back end, the front end and everything in between. It was a total refresh,” Fee said. “We’ve done the hard work. Now we have the flexibility and scalability to do whatever we want.”
RWWA hasn’t wasted any time in making the most of the new infrastructure. It has already rolled out mobile applications for sports and horse racing and an interactive pay-TV options for customers via Two Way TV and Sky Racing. All run on the Cisco Unified Computing System.
“If you are in WA right now, and you have a TAB account you can use your remote control to place a bet,” Fee said.
Last year, the organisation turned over $27 million on Melbourne Cup day so the new system is set for the ultimate test on the first Tuesday in November.
“The transaction throughput in the lead up is the biggest we see all year,” Fee said. “And with the new system we can cater for 2000-3000 transactions a second, for those punters who do place large online volumes of bets.”
RWWA’s previous racing terminals were between 12 and 21 years of age and its core system was 28 years old. That made the case for the upgrade fairly compelling, according to Fee.
“The main factor was that resources weren’t available to support the system because of its age; people coming out of university didn’t have the skills and we were finding it difficult to acquire resources to support the system,” he said.
“It was not only about maintaining the business but also providing a launching pad for the future in what is now a competitive environment.”
The new systems have also allowed the IT team to develop its own software, giving the organisation the flexibility to meet customer demand in terms of products.
“If customers have suggestions we are able to respond to those, whereas historically we couldn’t really do that with the old terminals.”
Indeed the team has partnered with NSW to write a greyhound racing system that will also be used in South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT and will go live early in the New Year.
The organisation has a long-standing relationship with Cisco, which provides the equipment for the core and the wide area network throughout. Fee said he saw the opportunity for a “holistic solution”.
The team trialled systems at its head office and disaster recovery centre, looking at throughput, failover capability, performance and management.
“It was a lot easier to manage than having multiple servers and we were also happy with the reliability and throughput,” Fee said.
It meant RWWA was able to consolidate its 65 management points across the network to just six.
“The business is diversifying and if you look at applications like mobile phones and internet TV, it helps you manage them more effectively and, potentially, reduce the growth of staff. It allows you to take on the extra services without the requirement to take on extra staff.”
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