Local operators in Africa have seen explosive growth over the past few years, but data and broadband costs are high; political volatility and corruption are present in some markets; frequent tax changes are common; and strict controls on foreign exchange are in force. Add to this the multiple regulatory burdens with slow legislative procedures and you might think twice. BetTech Gaming overcame these obstacles and carved out a successful business in South Africa. The company’s Head of Architecture Ian Barnes believes it’s BetTech’s attitude to customer service that sets them apart from the competition. “We deliver a cloud-based, enterprise software-as-a-service (SaaS) and as a managed service provider, support is key,” he says. “Even though we are a B2B company, the end user’s experience is what matters, as that is what will keep our customers coming back to us. We are happy to listen to requirements and change features on demand.”

The company must have stringent service level agreements (SLAs) in place to guarantee platform availability. “You can imagine the chaos if our infrastructure goes down during a popular horse race, or on one of our major lottery days,” says Barnes. That’s why when BetTech experienced some downtime one Saturday night (peak time for the company), Barnes and team knew it might be time to replace their old in-house monitoring system. “Although we recovered quickly,” he says, “that one time was enough for us.” The problem occurred because BetTech’s in-house monitoring system failed to help them anticipate the downtime. According to Barnes, “Our internal monitoring system was maintenance heavy and it was difficult to configure the alerts we needed. For every client, we had to create unique settings and plugins—and then remember them, of course. We almost felt like we were guarding the guards, and that kept us from focusing on our core business. It just wasn’t scalable at all and we experienced peaks and troughs in our performance that we couldn’t explain.”

A simple solution that couples with open source

BetTech’s infrastructure is entirely open source-based and market research showed that New Relic application performance monitoring (APM) with its universal OS support, would be a perfect fit for the company’s systems. Barnes was amazed at how easy it was to get New Relic up and running: “It was just so simple; within four hours we had replaced all our server monitoring with New Relic. We had built-in alerts and a simple integration into PagerDuty, which we use for alerting. Straightaway we started getting meaningful data from the system.” Once the company’s critical systems were consolidated into a single monitoring platform, it was easy to expand the reach of New Relic. BetTech introduced monitoring to cover all plugin services, such as Apache, Redis, MySQL, and Memcached. This was done in one day without writing any code, just by tweaking a few configurations.

Real-time metrics to improve service delivery

The impact was immediate and New Relic helped pinpoint problem areas previously unknown to BetTech. Performance issues were mostly related to the sheer number of users at peak times, so Barnes and team set careful thresholds to determine what constitutes a slow transaction. New Relic’s alert notifications were very helpful in capacity planning to make sure the infrastructure could cope with an upcoming event.

With New Relic giving Barnes and team real-time visibility into system performance, finding and fixing problems is a much more efficient process. “We can isolate the root cause of issues faster and it doesn’t require the number of people we used to have involved,” says Barnes. “Our service delivery has improved and New Relic helps us meet our platform availability SLA commitments. We are proactive instead of reactive and can tackle problems before they affect our clients.”

BetTech is now able to make meaningful optimizations to its systems and every client application is monitored by New Relic. When a client reported slow performance in one of its betting stores, BetTech could just log on and see what was happening in the stack trace in real time, making its support function far more effective. BetTech uses browser monitoring to improve the JavaScript-heavy interface for its retail customers, and New Relic’s dashboards are invaluable to the different teams who use them, such as development, operations, and business. The reports are consolidated into a single interface for ease of use.

Barnes and team also use New Relic to support BetTech’s development process. Using deployment markers, the team tags new releases to ensure there isn’t a negative effect on load times, and over time BetTech can measure whether the right improvements have been made to the platform. New services are now always designed with metric collection in mind, especially applications that are latency- and time-sensitive. Barnes feels BetTech has just begun to scratch the surface with New Relic: “We’ve picked the low-hanging fruit first and very quickly received sensible and meaningful metrics to instantly improve our platform performance and availability. New Relic then enabled us to leverage more functionality gradually as our requirements grew and the potential with New Relic became clear to us. In our organic growth model, this has worked particularly well for us. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for us, and know that New Relic will be with us all the way.”