“Being aware of new solutions provided by both the main hardware and software companies helps budgets,” says Michael O’Gorman, CIO of Xanadu, a fast-growing global gaming technology services player.
Xanadu is a global online gaming technology and services provider, with offices in Cork, London and, more recently, Toronto.
Founded by Mark Brosnan, Cian Nugent and Esme O’Flynn in June 2011, Xanadu currently employs 120 people.
Xanadu specialises in software development and consultancy services, led by a multi-disciplinary team with industry-leading skills in Java development, big data and cloud computing.
Last week, Xanadu was awarded a multi-million euro contract to enhance Matchbook.com’s betting exchange platform. Matchbook.com has engaged Xanadu to deliver a comprehensive rebuilding of the global sports trading platform to provide an even faster and more efficient trading exchange for users.
What are the main points of your company's IT strategy?
Our IT strategy is based around giving our customers a great solution and service. As well as designing and building the software systems and infrastructure it runs on, we also manage all systems 24/7 for our customers. Security is key for our customer applications and it is taken very seriously in all aspects of the business.
Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?
The production infrastructure is built out across three data centres, with a mix of both virtualised and bare metal. As well as that we have an internal infrastructure of more than 250 desktops, servers and virtualised environments. Some of our customers run in a regulated environment, so that restricts what we can do with these applications and where they can be executed from. We do use cloud providers but these are also from regulated environments.
In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?
At Xanadu we have an ever-growing appetite for more hardware resources as our customers grow; keeping uniformity and leveraging automation will keep costs down whilst growing. Being aware of new solutions provided by both the main hardware and software companies can also help budgets.
For development, our teams work using Agile principles and Scrum processes to ensure that developments are rolled out on time and on budget.
How complex is the infrastructure, are you taking steps to simplify it?
With managing the infrastructure for numerous clients, it is important that they are all operating the same hardware & systems stack. We are in the process of standardising on infrastructure components for all clients, so that it is a seamless transition from one to the other. The base components can be standardised and their will be specific kit to certain applications, but essentially the more we can keep standard the easier it is to build out and manage.
Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?
We have a fantastic and growing team of more than 120 people in the Xanadu headquarters in Cork. Almost three quarters of them are involved in the technology side of the business, and we are still looking to recruit more people with strong tech skills.
While we have this large in-house team, depending on projects we may also outsource. In some cases we outsource locally, whereas other projects are outsourced internationally.
We usually start off with a small project and as confidence grows with a software provider, bigger projects are given. However, we do not outsource any of our clients' production infrastructure work – all infrastructure is managed by internal teams.
What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?
My main responsibilities are managing and resourcing the software development teams, internal and production infrastructures, technical operations and security. I have great people looking after these areas for me.
We have grown very fast over the past two years and I would have spent a lot of my time building out the various teams in the organisation during that period.
It is important that one has a good knowledge of the solution being built from a software and infrastructure perspective and I would be involved in various aspects of the projects that involve technical discussion and solutions.
What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?
In terms of software there are a few key areas for Xanadu; with systems that operate on a movement of a price or liquidity components, event driven systems and push-based technologies of big interest.
We are currently building a high-speed transaction based system for one of our clients and event driven systems make this possible. User interfaces also are only interested in a change of data so push-based technologies are being used to send out relevant data to connected UIs.
And, finally, big data is also of keen interest to our customers – here we are working on research projects with CNGL in Dublin to create a smart content delivery system. We are also talking to other research facilities on other big data related research projects to tie in with customer projects.
In infrastructure, our clients' demands are not uniform and there are certain key times when demand and load rises sharply in a very short period of time – effectively using on-demand cloud resources will keep costs down as well handling capacity when needed. We are working on projects to get us to where we want to go on this.
What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?
We monitor both system resource metrics and business metrics on all environments. One on its own does not give a true picture of how the system is performing or behaving. Some of the production systems have API access, so we monitor response times on API calls to ensure customers are having an appropriate experience.
Are there any areas you've identified where IT can improve, and what are they?
We are working on a higher level of automation on our build and deployment environment. We have quite a lot of production, staging, QA, integration and development environments and we need to have a very fast consistent way of rolling systems out. We are focusing on building out the dev-ops team to help us here.
What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?
We have lots of projects we are working on at the moment – too many to list here! One of our major projects on the infrastructure side is looking at the optimum host, storage and virtualisation solution for us that fits the demand of our customers, which we manage environments for. We have seen some really nice products in this regard and will be moving forward very soon with them. This project with reduce the TCO for part of our infrastructure.
We also plan more collaboration with research departments in Irish universities and colleges.