PagerDuty: A Horse You Can Back at William Hill Australia

by Lauren Wang March 22, 2018 | 4 min read

*Since the time of this writing, William Hill Australia has been acquired by The Stars Group.

In the U.K., there’s the Royal Ascot. In the U.S., it’s the Kentucky Derby. But Australia takes horse racing to a whole new level: The Melbourne Cup, aka “the race that stops the nation,” is such a big event, it’s a public holiday in the state of Victoria. Imagine that—having a public holiday just so people can go watch horses run in circles! That is amazing!

But just how big is betting on horses for Australians? According to the most recent figures, from 2015 – 2016, nearly one million Australians bet approximately $3 billion AUD on horse races. Now, imagine if you were one of these Aussies, excited about this day off—and then you find out you’re unable to place a bet because the systems at the sportsbook you use just stopped working (or are working so slowly, they may as well not be working).

Not only would you be really upset, you’d likely also find another sportsbook to make your wager so you won’t have to watch the horses run away with your potential winnings. For companies like William Hill Australia, one of the country’s leading betting and gaming companies, avoiding such a scenario is the exact reason why it selected PagerDuty to help it ensure that its systems always remain available for its customers. To put it another way, anything less that 100 percent uptime on Melbourne Cup Day is unacceptable to the Infrastructure and Operations teams. According to them, “You just need one little blip and one minute of outage, and you’ve blown your KPI out the window.”

Better Work-Life Balance With Automation and Integrations

PagerDuty was brought on board to play a huge role in William Hill Australia’s digital transformation and cloud migration initiatives. Historically, team members had to monitor tickets flowing into their email box to manage incidents. The process was manual and relied heavily on team members making the right call—sometimes literally. And if they were going to wake a fellow employee at 3 a.m., they better make sure they fully understand the context and severity of an incident in order to communicate it effectively so the on-call person can solve it as quickly as possible. PagerDuty enables William Hill Australia to automate this entire process, which has helped on-call responders to react more quickly and maintain uptime.

At the same time, the technology can’t send an alert or notification every single time an alarm goes off—with all the monitoring tools in place, the volume of alerts that the team would have to sift through would be overwhelming. The technology has to be smart enough to figure out what’s signal and what’s noise. Otherwise, William Hill Australia would be in the same situation as before, with people manually figuring out the incident and determining who should be called in.

So, they’ve integrated their monitoring tools—including Splunk, AppDynamics, CloudWatch, you name it—into PagerDuty. Using PagerDuty’s event intelligence and alert grouping capabilities, the teams are now confident that when PagerDuty notifies them, it truly is for an incident that needs immediate attention.

Additionally, the teams are empowered to respond how they want to respond. They control their on-call schedules and how they want to be notified. Instead of someone calling them, PagerDuty automatically notifies the on-call staff via SMS, email, phone—however they want to be notified. If there isn’t a response within a set period of time, PagerDuty automatically escalates to the next level, based on the criteria that William Hill Australia has established. According to the team, they “know the issue is going to get picked up at some point in the next few minutes, rather than having to hope that somebody is watching a screen or monitoring an email queue.”

Saving on Downtime—and Costs

Every minute of downtime can cost up to $100,000 AUD, so the ability to resolve issues before customers are aware of any problems has made a huge impact for William Hill Australia. According to their Head of Infrastructure and Operations, “I don’t want the business telling me I’ve got an issue. I want my technology to alert me.”

The end result: People can successfully place bets through William Hill Australia—even during peak times— and now it’s off to the races!

To learn more about how PagerDuty helps William Hill Australia stay up and running 24/7, check out the full story.