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Hong Kong Jockey Club
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Data, System Integration
Challenges
The legacy system and backbone network of Customer Input Terminal (CIT) was not able to handle the anticipated increase in CIT transaction volumes
Solutions
The new network architecture runs on a state-of-the-art multi-services access IP platform and Metro Ethernet transport to support more than 2,600 modem ports, connecting customers' CITs to various HKJC servers. The new solution connects CIT terminals to a host authorisation system. As it uses few packets to communicate to the host so that it can manage more calls per day with reduced network congestion and response time
HK Jockey Club thrives through challenges with enhanced network infrastructure

The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) is one of the world's largest horse racing organisations providing world-class sporting entertainment while being a major benefactor of public and community services through its tax payments and charitable contributions in Hong Kong. In 2006/2007, the HKJC donated HK$1.05 billion to the community.

Established in 1884, the HKJC today provides a variety of sporting and entertainment services including football betting, Mark Six Lottery and horse racing. Up to a billion Hong Kong dollars is bet at each race meeting in Hong Kong, and at peak times, the HKJC's back-end systems process 3,600 transactions every second, a rate unmatched by any other betting operator in the world.

Approach to Legacy System Evolution

The HKJC introduced the first hand-held Customer Input Terminal (CIT) in 1988 with the aim of providing an enhanced betting experience to its customers. In nearly 20 years since its launch, the CIT continues to evolve and is now in its eighth generation, with 80,000 loyal users. Although the HKJC appreciated its existing legacy system and backbone network for its high degree of reliability and stability, the network was difficult to upgrade and modify which hampered a more speedy response time.

Maintaining an advanced IT backbone infrastructure is not easy. HKJC faced immense challenges of very high daily transaction volumes, not to mention CIT customers' fast-growing expectations for ever-higher quality of service.

"The CIT legacy transaction protocol requires a massive buffering capability in order to support its store-and-forward data transfer mechanism, resulting in a very expensive and inefficient proprietary legacy network. We expected that the legacy network would not be able to handle the anticipated increase in CIT transaction volumes in the future," said Mr. Sunny Lee, Executive Director, Information Technology of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. "Since the existing network maintenance cost was high and we were also looking into further increasing the standard in network response time, we decided to proactively look for an alternative that met both current and future needs."

One of the key ways that the HKJC strives to improve customer satisfaction is by enhancing its facilities and using best-practice technologies. With the concurrent aims of reducing IT maintenance costs, while developing a scalable and reliable network with a high level of security, the HKJC has chosen WTT over all other major ICT service providers to upgrade its network.

Counting on a robust IP network solution

At the HKJC, performance is the key objective, while achieving a scalable infrastructure with a high degree of reliability and resilience is a priority. The HKJC aims to achieve the same high availability for the CIT network as it does for its betting backend systems. In 2006, the server uptime on HKJC's core betting systems averaged 99.997%. These systems are capable of processing a horse racing bet and Mark Six transaction in just a split of a second. "Reliability, availability and serviceability are our critical concerns when making the decision to switch to a new platform. Key also is the need to ensure the migration has no impact on the existing live system as well as on our customers," Mr. Lee commented.

WTT has partnered with UTStarcomm & Cisco to help HKJC replace the existing CIT network infrastructure with an IP-based platform. The new architecture runs on a state-of-the-art multi-services access IP platform and Metro Ethernet transport to support more than 2,600 modem ports, connecting customers' CITs to various HKJC servers.

Maximising load balancing for fast transaction processing

UTStarcomm's multi-service access platform speeds up transaction times and supports transaction protocols such as VISA I/II and Synchronous Data Link Control with full protocol emulation. It provides maximum reliability with redundant access router cards capable of auto-failover with no service interruption. Moreover, the site load balancing and content switching are well managed through Cisco's Content Service Switches to ensure even traffic distribution to different servers hosted in HKJC's data centres.

The new solution connects CIT terminals to a host authorisation system. It acts as an intermediary and can communicate with the host using far fewer packets compared with direct connection to the host, thus allowing the host to manage more calls per day with reduced network congestion and response time. Over 80,000 CIT users can therefore process their CIT instructions quickly and accurately. The newly enhanced network infrastructure has reduced the data transmission time by more than 10%. Moreover the intelligent load balancing solution helps to ensure the network's health with close monitoring of data traffic. This is critical to manage any sudden transaction volume increases during peak periods.

"WTT impressed us with their capability to capitalise on the latest technology to provide cost efficient solutions and can-do attitude with persistent efforts in problem solving, strong know-how in network telecommunications as well as excellent collaboration with various partners that ultimately resulted in their winning the service contract," Mr. Lee said.

Conclusion

The entire project implementation and migration was completed within six months and with expert advice from WTT's consultants and engineers, the project went smoothly. Mr. Lee praised WTT and its partners for their comprehensive support throughout the entire project implementation. He commented that the new IP platform is highly scalable, reliable, easy to manage and facilitates the HKJC's future IT enhancement plans.