Pushing the boundaries

August 01, 2021

Danny Hook, director of enterprise at Gibtelecom, gives iNTERGAMINGi insight about the data centre sector, the company’s cloud services and where the industry is headed

Data centres, including cloud services, are seen a little like the dark arts but put simply, those who host and network the igaming sector, Gibtelecom being one, are the engines or the workhorses of the industry. Without the reliability, security and availability data centres provide there would be no igaming.

It is interesting to understand how a number of the data centre providers established a niche offering for the igaming sector. Early entrants were founded by a combination of technical knowledge and business entrepreneurship, with huge success. Typically, the founders of these early movers were very hands on, they wanted to manage and control their own infrastructure. This and the establishment of gaming friendly jurisdictions led to the rise in “offshore” data centres in places such as Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Malta, Alderney, Kahnawake and Curacao. Companies were looking for regulated jurisdictions and secure facilities to host their infrastructure.

Many of the companies serving the sector today can trace their involvement in the igaming sector back to these early days.

The industry has evolved considerably since then and the changes we have seen are phenomenal. However, those of us who have been here from the start have seen the changes develop in a truly natural way – evolution not revolution!

In recent time however, Cloud services have become very popular and can offer increasingly attractive options compared to the traditional hosting model but this very much depends on each installation. The main advantage of a cloud platform is that you only pay for what you use with the added benefit of the usage of additional computing power as you need it. This is ideal for operators working on major sporting events such as the Olympics, European Cup, Football World Cup and the Grand National or for development projects.

Being able to offer a range of cloud services is essential, Gibtelecom’s cloud offering includes private, public and hybrid clouds, all of which are available at our locations. In addition, we also offer Cloud Backup (often referred to as Backup as a Service – BaaS) and Cloud Connect. 

Cloud Backup, as the name suggests, allows customers to manage the complete backup process end-to-end, ensuring reliability and data integrity. With our expanding cloud region footprint customers can now choose in jurisdiction or cross jurisdiction backup, giving options dependent on technical, business or legal requirements. 

Our Cloud Connect service brings global hyper-scale providers including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud together with our enterprise customers. 

Both our Cloud Connect and Cloud Backup Services connect via our Private Global Network, thereby avoiding many of the security risks associated with internet connections while creating globally distributed solutions.

International Expansion

It is this Global Private Network which is the mainstay of our expansion plans. In May we launched our first Asian Data Centre in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The facility offers hosting, managed solutions and a full range of Cloud services including Private, Public and Hybrid. 

This new facility connects directly through Gibtelecom’s core private network with our Data Centres in London and Gibraltar, providing European companies looking east, or eastern companies looking west, a secure and reliable internationally distributed infrastructure.

We will be launching two new data centre facilities in Europe this year, with another location being considered. Our aim is to accommodate the customer wherever they want to be, to this end we are negotiating with additional partners to achieve this goal.

From a business perspective, data centre services are often at the bottom of the list when it comes to either setting up business or expanding into new markets. I have seen potential new entrants into markets who haven’t even thought about the hosting of their products or the implications.

For obvious reasons security is high on everyone’s list of requirements when choosing where to host their business-critical infrastructure. Most data centres provide security that is relevant to their location and customer base but the biggest armour from a security perspective is where your data is hosted, whether this is hosted in a traditional manner, or by using cloud services. Having a distributed infrastructure makes business sense for operations, security, redundancy, legal requirements and cost benefits. Using an off-shore location for product development isn’t ideal, but for sensitive player data it makes perfect sense to use a location that is licensed - the latter is probably a regulatory requirement and creates an additional layer of security.

New technologies and challenges

We are regularly asked about the use of cryptocurrencies and their impact, though we don’t get directly involved with the payment methods used by our customers. Having said that, all of our data centres are PCI DSS Compliant. This applies to all of our clients, even if we are offering fully managed services we would never touch the customer’s operational software (games for instance), player data or player transactional information. 

Blockchain however has more impact as the technology needs to run on our infrastructure and its usage is becoming more popular across multiple verticals. We are only just seeing the emergence of this technology and how far reaching it could be – only time will tell!

From a player perspective, I believe we will see the increased use of virtual reality and artificial intelligence to enhance the player experience. esports will open the door to more peer to peer game style experiences.

However, with our industry limited by regulations, we will likely see more countries and regions regulating on their own terms creating a fragmented landscape. Hopefully some of these will come together to create common regulations and licensing but this will take time. We had hoped that the EU would have stepped in by now and created a pan European framework. The same applies in the US with licensing at Federal level rather than on a State by State basis.

M&A will continue and with it we will see new consumer brands. The sleeping giant is North America though; with the igaming sector gaining momentum and acceptance in North America I envisage some big M&A movement in the marketplace - mainly from companies who already have extensive customer bases and trusted brands.

Data Centre services are built on uptime and reliability, we listen to our customers on a daily basis to understand what their business strategies are and how we can support their ambitions. Understanding their technology requirements and challenges drives our corporate strategy and product development. As a data centre services provider, we need to supply products and services to our customers when and where they want them. 

Article featured in iNTERGAMINGi Issue 4, 2021

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