Weswit is a relatively new name in the iGaming market, but the data delivery solutions provider has built on its portfolio of blue chip clients from other industries to partner with leading names including bwin.party, City Index and Yazino. Casino International Online spoke with Weswit Chairman and co-CEO Mauro Fantechi to discuss how, driven by the rise in mobile and online players, operators must deal with the pressures of handling millions of concurrent users connected with different devices.
Casino International Online (CIO): Please tell us a little about the company’s history
Mauro Fantechi (MF): Weswit is a global leader in real-time web streaming solutions. We are headquartered in Milan, Italy, and have revolutionised live data delivery through our flagship product, Lightstreamer.
Established customers include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, NASA, Sony Music, Honeywell, SocGen, UBS, ICAP, Fixnetix and many others. Fuelled by the exponential rise in online and mobile players, we identified the betting and gaming industry as a key market for Lightstreamer and now have supply agreements in place with a growing number of leading operators, including bwin.party, Wirex, IG, City Index and Yazino.
CIO: Who are the key personnel and tell us something about their backgrounds?
MF: Myself and Alessandro Alinone founded the company. As chairman and co-CEO my role is to develop our global customer base, and one of our current focuses is on forming partnerships with iGaming companies.
I have a lot of experience of working in the technology industry. In 1994, after seven years as a VP of Technology at Unirel, I founded Unirel Sistemi, a computer software company focused on clustering technology. The business was later acquired by Stonesoft Corp, and I became R&D Director at Stonesoft. In 1997 I also set-up Babel, a company active in the network security space, which was acquired in 2002 by Par-Tec Spa, a hi-tech holding focused on software development. I have kept a role on the board as CEO.
Alessandro is co-CEO and CTO. As the architect and designer of Lightstreamer, Alessandro has led its development at Weswit and was integral to the company being recognised as a ‘Cool Vendor in Application and Integration Platforms’ in 2012 by Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company.
He started his career as a researcher and teacher at CEFRIEL, an organisation focused on strengthening existing ties between the academic and business worlds in innovative ICT sectors. Before creating Lightstreamer, Alessandro designed and managed the development of several financial trading platforms as a product and project manager at Sol-Tec, an Italian company operating in the financial market.
CIO: What exactly does Lightstreamer does for its customers?
MF: Lightstreamer is the most advanced server for real-time data delivery over the web. It is a massively scalable solution for pushing information that caters to millions of concurrent users, over WebSockets and other web protocols. It guarantees total reliability for business-critical and mission-critical systems, where key requirements are high scalability, low bandwidth consumption, smart firewall traversal and adaptive throttling.
This technology can be integrated in virtually any kind of application as a bi-directional data streaming engine. To name a few examples, IG have chosen Lightstreamer to provide streaming of prices and deal confirmations, and to stream data to its charts applications. bwin.party has migrated to Lightstreamer for its online poker, casino and bingo product verticals. Yazino is using Lightstreamer to handle real-time messaging and notifications between the server and the game client, and for game communication for iOS games. Wirex integrated it into its innovative live casino platforms for a specific variant of Black Jack, the whole chat system and the entire gaming back-end. Plus, Lightstreamer can be useful to power any kind of monitoring system with live data. Its current range of usage is extremely diverse, not only within the online gaming industry.
CIO: What have been the biggest factors behind the increasing demand for data delivery?
MF: The vast number of sports betting operators providing hundreds of in-running wagering opportunities drives a massive amount of traffic as does the ongoing improvement and widening of choice of casino, poker and bingo games.
Smartphones and tablets have become must-have, mass market products and the incredible uptake of mobile gaming, made possible by improvements in wireless connectivity has had a huge impact, bringing millions of new players and giving existing ones more opportunities to engage.
Newzoo, a market research and consulting firm, recently published a report which revealed that mobile gaming will grow at an average annual rate of 19% for smartphones and 48% for tablets, grossing $13.9 bn and $10bn in 2016 respectively. Combined, they will take a 27.8% share of the global market – a 10% increase on 2013 figures.
CIO: What are the main threats to operators when it comes to data delivery?
MF: Every operator knows that of any type of latency can be a disaster. There is the immediate impact on turnover and the reputational damage can be longer lasting and harder to measure. But the danger is that, by their very nature, these downtimes are prone to happen at the worst possible moments. How many times have you experienced the strain of a major international event proving too much to make a betting selection? It can be extremely frustrating. And I am sure that anyone reading this will remember the reaction when sites crash while, say, the Cheltenham Festival is on. Operators soon get to know how their players feel about this as they post their unsatisfied comments on Twitter and other social networks for the entire world to see.
Gaming portals simply need to stand up to the demands of the players and ensure that the service continues to flow even at peak times, keeping in mind that the internet is made up of a variety of obstacles that an operators’ IT team will have to navigate. These include firewalls, the many different browsers players use, the countless devices’ specificities, as well as common issues such as unreliable connections. Lightstreamer can easily take care of all of those complexities.
CIO: How will the landscape develop in the coming months and years?
MF: Online and mobile betting and gaming is already a global business, but there are many regions that remain untapped. Looking at the speed of development in newly opened and emerging markets, it is clear that as these hurdles are passed, the demand for data delivery will continue to increase as new generations of players arrive in a very short space of time. In addition social gaming is booming and, even by the most conservative of estimates, growth will continue to be rapid.
Five years ago most online gamers played mainly on PCs. Since then the number of gaming devices has increased drastically. Some operators are still catching up with the revolution currently in process. Today, an ambitious operator has to be able to move along with an uncertain, ever-changing scenario, so a gaming platform needs to be flexible to be adapted to new games, players, devices and markets with a proper speed. If an operator owns flexible and scalable technologies, it is ready to grow, change and move its platform anywhere and everywhere. Thus, resources can be allocated to attract new players and retain the old ones rather than on IT running and maintenance costs, with far better performance.
Lightstreamer can help prepare for the future iGaming landscape. For example, as in-running betting steadily continues to grow, operators will need an efficient live data delivery system to keep the players updated with events and prices, and receive bets that have to be processed with a far higher speed and without any latency.
Lightstreamer has been also successfully integrated within an innovative live dealer casino platform developed by Wirex, which is far beyond classic RNG casinos in terms of interactivity and requires the handling of a large amount of frequently updated data to keep the user interface responsive and offer the players a pervasive, truly ‘live’ gaming experience.
Overall complexities are getting drastically higher compared to the past, and implementing a real-time data streaming system can be really demanding. After more than 12 years of day-to-day improvements, our technology allows the integration of live data within any existing infrastructure seamlessly, thus guaranteeing full peace of mind for developers with a hassle-free, critical piece of technology.
CIO: What are the plans for the product in the next 12 months?
MF: Lightstreamer will grow to become a family of different products, all targeted at making the web a real-time environment, while hiding all the underlying complexity. Furthermore, we are expanding to the US with a permanent office in the Silicon Valley, which will help the Lightstreamer’s growth and diffusion. The iGaming market in North America is still chaotic from a regulatory point of view, but we are already there!