Betfair CTO wagers on tech overhaul

One of world's largest Internet betting exchanges is radically redesigning its development processes so it can pounce more quickly on new international business.

Betfair

The chief technology officer of Betfair, one of world's largest Internet betting exchanges, is radically overhauling its development processes so the gambling giant can pounce more quickly on new international business.

Tony McAlister joined the peer-to-peer gambling company as CTO in January and leads its 400-employee IT group. Before joining London-based Betfair, McAlister's career includes stints as CTO at Vodafone and most recently CTO at Motricity in North Carolina.

"The thing that really appealed to me about Betfair was its approach to doing business. We are turning down tremendous amounts of revenue by not running our poker products in the U.S. We could do it, but the company has an ethical approach which is what attracted me, even more than the business and technology challenges," McAlister told Silicon.com.

One technology challenge McAlister is working on is a shift in the company's strategy. Instead of focusing all its energies on its core exchange gambling platform, it will move toward a more modular approach over the next 24 to 36 months, with the aim of entering new markets faster and delivering only the gambling products permitted in that region.

"We are calling it a jurisdictional architecture--to be able to deliver (products) where they are legal but only the pieces that are legal. In one country, we can do poker but not horse racing, and in another country, casinos but not poker. We have to deal with jurisdictional nuances but also how quickly the walls will fall. I don't know which countries are going to open up next," McAlister said.

"We are moving to a more agile methodology because we are looking at building smaller components and integrating them," he added.

This also means less of an emphasis on building every part of the offering, according to the CTO: "I don't have to build them, I can buy them, but I want to plug them into my infrastructure very easily. Roulette is roulette: I don't need to build that," he said.

Fortunately, McAlister also has the budget to make the plans a reality: "I might be one of the only CTOs in the city that has an increased budget this year. In this environment, that's a nice place to be, and a great opportunity to get really great talent."

As well as hiring in the U.K., McAlister is looking to build up the Betfair IT team outside of the the country as well.

"I'm looking to build up technical teams in the U.S. because the skill sets are sitting on the West Coast in the U.S. There are certain skills that are better developed there and we want to leave them there," he said. Similarly, McAlister is looking at increasing Betfair's mobile skills by hiring developers in Asia.

But as well as moving ahead with Betfair's grand plans, the IT team also has to keep their eye on the day-to-day business as well.

With next year's World Cup looming, the company is already preparing for the event by building capacity. By early 2010, the gambling giant will stop making changes to its core exchange system to make sure there are no alterations that could accidentally cause problems during the betting on the tournament.

Steve Ranger of Silicon.com reported from London.

 

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