Gambling-tech company Kindred Group is growing. Today, the company has 25 million customers in Europe, US and Australia. But for a company with a platform that handles an average of 30 million transactions daily, the expansion brings both great opportunities and major challenges.
In an industry where the user experience is everything, the platform must constantly deliver. Having an app that lags because a player is far from Kindred's data centre is unacceptable. As the platform's workload grows along with the number of users, Kindred must scale-up globally without simultaneously losing touch with the ground.
“Promotion campaigns and bonus offers need to be hyper-local, but we also need to have a strong global base. Our platform needs to be as close to our customers as possible. It becomes a technology issue: how do we scale-up without adding 3,000 more employees?"
Sören Thörnlund is Kindred Group’s development manager. He makes it clear that having a single large, scalable data centre would not suffice. That would leave the company vulnerable if something unforeseen happens. At the same time, it’s not sustainable to build 20 data centres and develop everything locally.
“It would be too scattered. If you limit the number of technical solutions, it becomes easier to replace parts. Instead of each team solving scalability on their own, we want to make scalability central through a globally scalable database,” he says.
The main difficulty with building one has always been synchronising databases, so they follow a common clock and making them fault-tolerant. It’s important that all nodes agree on the order of things and that no events are lost. Older models were based entirely on atomic clocks and GPSs, but today there are protocols for consensus between databases such as Raft.
"For Kindred, it’s crucial that a customer has access to the right data regardless of which data centre delivers the result."
So, two years ago, the Kindred Group began working with US-based Cockroach Labs, which develops a worldwide geo-distributed, platform that links and synchronises multiple databases.
“Cockroach has solved the problem of timestamps and fault tolerance. With their platform, we will be able to manage 20 local data centres that are 100 per cent synchronised with one another. This allows us to control the user experience and be local where it makes a difference, where our customers choose to be. If one data centre goes down, another takes over. We have a number of services at Cockroach today and are expanding our platform bit by bit.”
“This will make it possible for us to grow faster and more sustainably. We’ll have a good balance between autonomous development teams while at the same time achieving economies of scale. It’s very important to get a good mix of profitability and agility,” says Thörnlund, who adds it’s important to be at tech’s leading edge.
“We follow what the big tech companies are doing. We take a look at Amazon, Netflix, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other giants. We don’t have the same financial muscle as they do, but we are good at driving development and gaining benefits because of it.”