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image image 20th June 2019

Busier Than Barclays On Black Friday

A bit of a bold claim from The Data Shed isn’t it; a data business in Leeds with less than 50 members of staff? It is indeed. It is also completely true and shows what you can do with a focussed team of very smart people working towards a common goal.

Say it with numbers

Now let’s go back and explain what this is, how it all came about and how The Data Shed’s CTO, Ed Thewlis, and Head of Architecture & Security, Stew Norriss, found themselves standing with Paul Gargan, an AWS Solutions Architect, in the new Leeds University NEXUS building in front of a room full of people.

GAMSTOP is the National Online Self Exclusion service to let people put controls in place to help restrict their online gambling activities. By signing up for the service it prevents the use of gambling websites and apps run by companies licensed in Great Britain, for a chosen period. It is a service people can sign up to which all online betting and gambling companies have to check with whenever someone logs in or registers with their betting or gaming sites. The scheme is currently the largest single national self-exclusion scheme in the world and is helping to change lives. We at The Data Shed are the technical delivery team behind the scheme. That means we work with GAMSTOP to build, design, develop and support the scheme and ensure it runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for everyone.

It’s a huge responsibility and something that we are very proud of. The testimonials we see, and the impact the scheme is having, show us that we are doing the right thing and in the right way.

The scheme is delivered in the AWS Cloud and is something that everyone we have worked with, and spoken to, at AWS agrees is a fabulous social responsibility project which is helping thousands of people.

The challenges of a scheme like this are numerous and varied but fundamentally come down to the five pillars on which we have built our success.

All of these pillars are crucial to dealing with days like the Grand National, which is the busiest day of the sports betting calendar. It was a massive challenge which we are proud to say we met with no errors. Working with AWS to scale the Application Load Balancers and ensure that we had load tested to more than 20,000 connections a second was challenging and taught us a lot. Scaling up, rebuilding and scaling down ECS clusters of EC2 instances with no down time in a blue/green or as Netflix call it Red/Black manner was a huge achievement.

Another great accomplishment was the migration of the whole service in production, running at hundreds of connections a second in the middle of the day with no lost connections. It was likened, admittedly by Ed, to moving Niagara Falls without a drop of water being lost, and by one operator who said, “did you actually migrate?”. Well, yes, we did; and that is testament on its own.

However, the key tenant at the heart of this scheme, and all of the work we do at The Data Shed, is the security and ensuring that people, operators and the many business we deal with know they can trust us with that data. Just like at AWS, security is always job 0; built into all we do, and how we do it, to ensure that we always look after not just the data, but the individuals it represents.

That was how we came to be stood in the new Nexus building alongside AWS, proudly talking about what we do and how we do it. The number is the headline but the scheme, the design, the hard work and the support we get from AWS working alongside our fabulous team at The Data Shed is the real story here and something rightly to be proud of.

Following on from this we were very pleased to be asked to be part of the Key Note speech at the recent AWS Initiative Manchester event as the only external speaker but that is one for the next blog.

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