FanDuel, the leading American sports gaming company driving a multibillion-dollar industry, has been at the frontline of the industry’s digital transformation for years. Now, it’s expanding its partnership with Amazon Web Service to scale, meet demands and reach new regions.
On Sept. 13, the company that offers Sportsbook and daily fantasy sports for NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and PGA announced the new partnership with AWS to drive expansion across the U.S. and Canada.
TechRepublic spoke to Shane Sweeney, senior vice president of technology at FanDuel, to get the inside story on the company’s data infrastructure demands and challenges and how AWS will impact their operations.
Building on an existing technology partnership
One of the main reasons why FanDuel decided to partner with AWS is their long-standing relationship. In early 2022, FanDuel migrated to AWS in less than three weeks after experiencing significant growth, which allowed the former third-party video-streaming vendor to handle 24/7 live streams. But the relationship between both companies predates that migration.
FanDuel has been leveraging AWS’s broad portfolio of cloud services, storage, analytics and databases since it launched in 2009.
SEE: Explore our in-depth comparison of AWS and Google Cloud.
“FanDuel has had a relationship with AWS for many years, as we do with other cloud providers,” Sweeney said. “This partnership, however, really comes into its own when you look at FanDuel data residency and on-premise requirements. Leveraging hybrid and edge solutions has been a key focus for AWS for many years.”
The SVP of technology of FanDuel explained that the industry in which they operate requires on-premises facilities and ensuring transactions happen within a state border. Centralization of processes, data and systems is therefore critical.
“Having our teams able to seamlessly work across regions and on-premises, with a single control plane, standard tools and standard ways of working really made AWS the best choice,” Sweeney said.
Responding to high demands with strategic infrastructure
With over 12 million registered users and growing throughout U.S. states, the technical demands of FanDuel need to be fit for business and ready for heavy workloads. As it scales, the company also faces compliance challenges.
“We have a requirement to have platforms and services running in more than 20 states,” Sweeney said. “We have to deal with regulatory differences across these various environments, and we need to be able to scale to meet the demands of very large events, (such as) the Kentucky Derby, NFL and Super Bowl to name a few.”
FanDuel is investing in AWS’s proven, secure and highly performant infrastructure to meet the compliance and infrastructure demands its scaling strategy imposes. Additionally, among other things, the new infrastructure will support millions of simultaneous online users as they place bets, watch live content and access real-time features.
“Data is core to our business and the flow of information needs to be in real time,” Sweeney added. “Engineers in FanDuel work very closely with the AWS teams to solve a highly distributed problem using the culmination of the central and edge services AWS has to offer.”
On-premises, edge and cloud: Big data and low latency
Naturally, the solution to real-time data is properly setting up and configuring on-premises hardware and software with edge and cloud infrastructure to provide consistent and reliable data flow with very low latency.
Jan Hofmeyr, vice president of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud Edge explained that FanDuel is one the largest users of AWS edge solutions.
“(FanDuel is) a perfect example of an organization using our consistent cloud infrastructure at the edge to help ensure regulatory compliance, while also increasing their performance, security, and scalability,” Hofmeyr said.
SEE: Check out the keynote highlights for AWS Summit New York 2023.
FanDuel recognizes that as it continues to grow the challenges will become more complex, but it relies on AWS to provide solutions that will help it streamline its business.
“AWS takes on an operational overhead that we simply don’t have to worry about,” Sweeney said. “If we used more traditional on-premises infrastructure, we would need to scale teams and manage many more aspects of the operation, which will distract us from our vision.”
Preparing digital infrastructure for big events: FanDuel and the NFL season
When preparing for big events such as the NFL regular season, which will draw in a crowd and put pressure on its digital infrastructure, FanDuel plans ahead. For FanDuel, the season starts the day after the Super Bowl.
“We start then because our teams and partners need to really understand how our workloads behaved … and, more importantly, identify lessons learned and areas for improvement,” Sweeney said.
From then on, the company works closely with AWS adjusting capacities, optimizing performance, and planning to manage growth expectations and new state launches. Sweeney explained that FanDuel will then move to testing phases, where the platform is tweaked and validated by AWS engineers working side-by-side with FanDuel engineers.
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“In the days preceding an event like the NFL, there is of course a lot of verification and double-checking of our platforms,” Sweeney said. “I cannot state it enough — AWS engineers and FanDuel engineers operate as one team, setting aside any organizational differences all with a common purpose.”
Research and development, sustainability and innovation
FanDuel is also working alongside AWS to reduce its environmental impact and make operations more energy-efficient by using tools such as the AWS Customer Carbon Footprint Tool to benchmark its carbon footprint against sustainability goals.
“We have started using AWS Graviton instance types, which consume up to 60% less energy than comparable instances without compromising performance and use AWS serverless technology, which allows our workloads to run only for the precise time that they need to and then they terminate to avoid wasting resources,” Sweeney said.
The company is exploring new ways to innovate with AWS, including the use of machine learning and generative artificial intelligence with Amazon Bedrock to enhance its platform.
“FanDuel strives to be innovators, and this means we will use new technologies all of the time,” Sweeney said. “We need to constantly be looking for new ways to solve problems. GenAI is a really interesting new proposition that we have started to explore, and I am interested to see what use cases emerge over the coming months.”