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The changing face of egaming infrastructure delivery

January 1, 2019

Danny Hook is managing director of Rockolo, part of the Gibtelecom group. Hook has over 20 years’ experience within the IT sector, both as an IT engineer and more recently, over the past decade, leading operational teams and managing the data-centre business for Gibtelecom.

Danny Hook, of Rockolo, considers the development of infrastructure delivery in egaming

Five years ago, when an egaming operator came to deploy in Gibraltar, it was fairly typical to see their technology infrastructure being housed within 10 or 20 standard datacentre racks. With these deployments came many tens of thousands of pounds (often millions) of investment in computer hardware, storage devices and networking equipment. Teams of infrastructure technicians set up locally to build, run and manage their day-to-day health and keep it all run smoothly.

We built best in breed datacentre facilities coupled with the fast and highly resilient internet links needed to drive the end user experience of many thousands of users and clients. Over the last decade or so, we’ve become very accomplished providers of datacentres services in Gibraltar and we’re proud of our track record and service quality.

Fast forward to 2018 and a typical new client deployment is likely to be five datacentre racks, if that. Advances in hardware technology means equipment is much smaller and efficient than it was, requiring less space and power than five years ago. However, the equipment costs are broadly similar to those of five years ago, as are the costs of staff and teams of technicians.

Equally significant is that five years ago, public cloud adoption among the egaming community was minimal for a number of reasons – technical, commercial or legal. From a technical perspective, their requirements are demanding, often needing low latency, high throughputs and running CPU intense workloads. From a commercial perspective, it had become the accepted way of doing things.

From a compliance perspective, five years ago, egaming activities were considered a violation of the acceptable use policies by many of the hyper-scale global cloud providers, closing them off to the industry. Today, there are very few organisations in the industry that haven’t embraced the flexibility of public cloud in some shape or form. Their ability to rapidly scale infrastructure to meet peak demands, control costs and therefore maximise business agility, have been a significant innovation in the online gaming sector.

So what changed? Amazon’s cloud platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), listed gambling activities among a list of “not permitted activates” and egaming businesses were not able to use its plat- form. In 2016, AWS removed this clause. The move aligned Amazon with its main rivals, Microsoft and Google; however, the significance of what Amazon has to offer the gaming industry marked a turning point in cloud adoption within the industry. In simplistic terms, Amazon’s new stance is that if what you’re doing on their platform is legal in the jurisdiction in which you’re doing it, you can run it on their platform.

Cloud infrastructure therefore enables innovation and creativity to develop in the Gibraltar egaming market and we are proud to be supporting that
Danny Hook | Rockolo

To comply with the Gibraltar egaming regulations, licensees need to run key elements of their platform within the territory. Gibraltar has become home to many of the big names in our industry who have amassed sizeable physical infrastructures over the last decade, as this has been standard practice, and was the only method available at the time.

The amazing pace of mindset change

As recently as 18 months ago, prospective clients would come and ask for datacentre co-location space. At that time, their businesses had no other alternative of deployment. All they wanted from us was a reliable and secure space to place their equipment. Fast forward to today and those same clients are coming to Rockolo looking for ‘services’ within the jurisdiction, and this doesn’t necessarily mean solely physical rack co-location. They often want something they can simply turn on and pay to use, based on demand and with someone else to take care of all the physical technology. They want infra- structure as-a-service, i.e. the cloud.

Start-up egaming businesses these days have never purchased a piece of equipment to run their platforms. They are ‘born on the cloud’ and they are agile and competitive.

So how has this rapid mindset shift come about? Put simply, experience and confidence. Many in the industry have now evaluated and/or deployed elements of their platforms on public clouds and they’ve learnt how to drive it and benefit from its flexibility. Consequently, they’ve come to trust the technology and the cloud model of operation.

Now they want to adopt the same flexible model for their ‘in jurisdiction’ operational requirements.

Responding to technology shift and encouraging industry innovation
Spotting the rapidly increasing demand for ‘as-a- service’ platforms, Rockolo initiated plans to broaden its product portfolio with high performance cloud platforms. These platforms offer the same style of pay-as-you-use billing models that the industry now understands. We took the decision from the outset that our offering would be as flexible as possible with true scale-up, scale-down resources so that clients can match their needs (and their costs) to the nearest hour.

Almost overnight ‘in jurisdiction’ cloud for affiliates and B2B providers has become big business in Gibraltar. These typically need to deploy in jurisdiction infrastructure for their businesses to comply with licensing and have the ability to integrate with operators. For these users, cloud avoids the need to invest and deploy physical equipment in locations where they may have no on-the-ground technical staff or other presence, saving them time, cash and allowing them to be agile and quick to market.

The Rockolo infrastructure cloud can also be directly cross-connected with existing data centre colocation tenants. It’s rapidly becoming a ‘meet me’ area where B2Bs and operators come together to collaborate while we provide an always-on, elastic platform which they can quickly set up and scale to their needs.

Contracts no longer necessarily need to have a long-term commitment period. Pay monthly has lowered the barrier to entry for affiliates and B2B deals to happen. Gone is upfront CAPEX investment risk when the success of the venture can’t always be fully understood at the outset. Cloud infrastructure therefore enables innovation and creativity to develop in the Gibraltar egaming market, and we are proud to be supporting that.

In summary, Rockolo’s infrastructure-as-a-service platforms are the first Gibraltar resident cloud platform that is hosting production workloads for egaming licensees and B2B providers.

We’re embracing industry shifts to in jurisdiction cloud deployment strategies by continuing to invest heavily in as-a- service platforms. We’re making Gibraltar the jurisdiction of choice when it comes to getting a technology stack up and running quickly and cost effectively.

Article published in EGR Intel Jurisdictions Report 2019