Gamesys was born in 2001 with just a handful of developers. Jackpotjoy was launched in 2002, and along the way, the online gaming company has grown to more than 1300 employees across 19 offices worldwide. Through its subsidiaries, Gamesys Group currently offers bingo and casino games using brands which include Jackpotjoy, Virgin Games, Botemania, and others. Gamesys is supported by a private cloud, with the network design and configuration provided by Nomios Group and Juniper Networks routing, switching, security and orchestration technology at its core.
Journey to the private cloud
“Our technical mission is to simplify and accelerate the development and operation of our platforms,” says Roberto Pullicino, head of production engineering at Gamesys Group. “Our infrastructure contributes directly to our technical mission to simplify the creation of new ventures and reduce the time and effort to enter new markets.” Gamesys started its journey to the private cloud three years ago. Business was growing exponentially. Different data centres operating under different processes based on region, added complexity and hindered easy scalability. To deliver a consistently great online gaming experience to millions of people, Gamesys needed an agile infrastructure that was resilient, stable, and high performing.
“Nomios Group handled the network design, configuration, and deployment, so we could focus on the software side. Our relationship with Nomios Group has grown from strength to strength.” - Roberto Pullicino, head of production engineering at Gamesys Group.
As the company shifted toward DevOps and microservices, the network team wanted to empower developers. “A few years ago, the wall between our developers and operations was thick and high,” says Pullicino. “Developers had to throw everything over the fence.”
An agile cloud for development, testing, and production systems would help developers innovate and get new games and features into the hands of fans faster. “We wanted the ability and scope to make sure that developers could consume infrastructure in a simpler, easier way,” says Pullicino. “We wanted to adopt a NetOps paradigm to help increase our end-to-end efficiency.
Gamesys also wanted investment protection. As Pullicino explains, “We didn’t want to repeat a data centre refresh every few years. We wanted to take it a step further. We began to look at a software-defined approach to our data centres.”
Building a private virtual cloud
The Gamesys team began moving to a private virtual cloud. To create its cloud platform, Gamesys turned to Red Hat OpenStack for cloud computing and Juniper Networks for routing, switching, security and service orchestration as the network foundation.
Today, the Gamesys Adaptive InfrAstructure (GAIA) private cloud spans the company’s data centres in London, Malta, and Gibraltar. The cloud platform supports the online game development life cycle, from the incubation of a new feature to development, testing, and production. Working in a single, synergistic environment, Gamesys developers leverage the same tools across all phases, speeding development. Gamesys has the agility and flexibility to grow and meet requirements for ultra-fast product delivery, which is the standard for the gaming industry.
“We’ve gone from days to hours to provision infrastructure. Automating the setup of infrastructure is a huge benefit from the developer’s point of view.” - Clinton Grech, network architect, Gamesys Group
The GAIA cloud hosts a total of 60 different projects, with 950 networks and more than 3000 virtual machines.
“With our private cloud, based on Juniper networking, we have streamlined our architecture, ensured our environments are the same from development to production, and reduced the cost of development and time-to-market,” says Pullicino. Already a Juniper customer, the team re-architected its data centre network to a spine-and-leaf fabric using Juniper Networks® QFX Series Switches and EX Series Ethernet Switches. Juniper Networks MX Series 5G Universal Routing Platforms serve as the cloud gateway, which is managed by Juniper Contrail® Device Manager. Juniper Contrail Networking™ provides dynamic network policy and control, simplifying orchestration of the virtual overlay network. Juniper Networks Junos Space® Network Management Platform is used as the main monitoring tool for the cloud network infrastructure. Juniper Networks SRX Series Services Gateways provide perimeter security at each data centre location.
A NetOps journey
A flexible private cloud enabled Gamesys to develop games more rapidly and work toward a continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) practice. A full-stack development infrastructure, which used to take days or even weeks to deliver, is now provisioned in a few hours.
“A couple of years back, the network infrastructure was totally invisible to the development teams,” says Clinton Grech, network architect at Gamesys. “Today, it’s drastically different.”
Grech once spent his time manually configuring VLANs on switches and performing other network tasks as required by the developers. The versatility of Contrail Networking, using network policies and network port functions, enabled the network team to write OpenStack Heat Orchestration Templates, wrapped in Ansible code, to deploy complex load balancers and dedicated environments for the development teams. Developers can provision their own requests through Ansible playbooks.
“We’ve gone from days to hours to provision infrastructure,” Grech says. “Automating the setup of infrastructure is a huge benefit from the developer’s point of view.” Automation enables Gamesys developers to focus on the delivery of features for the online patrons of Jackpotjoy, Virgin Games, and all the other brands. “We’ve seen dramatically faster time-to-market from the inception of an idea to release into production,” says Grech. The development team welcomed the agility of NetOps. “We were able to give the developers the control they always wanted,” says Grech. To help the team crush the infrastructure learning curve, the network team identified and collaborated with champions from each development team. “The developers contributed enhancements to our automation code,” he says. “We have a strong partnership.”
Automation also helps Gamesys stop cyber attacks faster. The security operations center uses playbooks to automatically respond to distributed denial of service (DDoS), credentialstuffing, malicious IP addresses, and other attacks. The network team has gotten a crash course in NetOps. “It was a journey of almost three years,” says Grech.
“Automation is not an easy journey, but it’s very rewarding once you’ve done it.” Grech is happy to not spend time configuring VLANs anymore. “Nowadays I am focused on expanding our cloud infrastructure,” he says. “With a private cloud and automation, I have more time to do more strategic and interesting work.”
Nomios Group nominated Gamesys for the Elevate Award. Together we built up a case study which led to us winning the Juniper Networks award. Roberto Pullicino hopes that this award will lead to many more great accomplishments and even more awards to display in a nice cabinet.
Collaboration with Nomios Group
Gamesys worked with the UK team at Nomios Group, as well as Juniper Professional Services, on the multiyear project.
Nomios Group managed the installation and commissioning of data centres in Malta, Gibraltar, and London. “Nomios Group handled the network design, configuration, and deployment, so we could focus on the software side,” says Pullicino. “Our relationship with Nomios Group has grown from strength to strength.”
Following the GAIA private cloud, Nomios Group carried out similar work to support the platform migration for the New Jersey operation of TropicanaCasino.com. The project included installing and commissioning a data centre in the U.S. in a mere five days, a job significantly accelerated by automation. With a private cloud, Gamesys can continue to innovate in online gaming, bringing thrills and surprises to millions of players.