Wednesday 16 December 2009

Introducing Sporting Index Super Simple Integration

This year we decided to give our B2B customers an early Christmas present - SSI.

Sporting Index (well, really Sporting Solutions, our B2B brand) provides pre-match and in-play pricing and content to fixed odds bookmakers for hundreds of markets across 16 sports with more events from more jurisdictions being added almost every month.

Traditionally we’ve done this by pushing XML documents around over reliable transports and leased lines. This works very well and there is nothing inherently wrong with this solution, but we weren’t happy that customers had to install expensive fixed lines and associated hardware, and our back end is capable of producing multiple-thousands of price changes a minute – well beyond the rate at which some of our customers can consume them.

On top of this, our customers wanted the low latency and reliable updates that come with a push solutions, but also the easy integration and flexible client-side controls that comes with a pull solution.

Well, you asked for it and you’re the customers, so let’s unwrap this bad boy.

Super Simple Integration is essentially a RESTful web services API available over the good-old-fashioned Internet. The feed is as easy to consume as you’d expect from any web API, and we’ve spent a lot of time on the data formats and doing some clever pub-sub tricks in the background – thus all the benefits of the heavyweight XML services but through an integration which is quick and easy to get to grips with.

There’s a lot to this, so let’s just cover two of the most common use cases:

Get Content

Our content products can be used to populate websites with upcoming fixtures and players, and to power pages or widgets showing points, corners, goals etc as they happen in running matches.

Content products are mostly stateless and work on a fairly simple request-response model, which can mean no integration work at all. Well that’s half true – you still need to consume the data from the API – but you don’t necessarily need to build a repository on the customer side or have to match up schemas.

Let’s say that wanted to build a little scoreboard for my site to show my visitors the progress of a live England v New Zealand rugby game;

API content integration

You get the content you want, as often as you want, delivered back in name-value pairs. There are also a couple of methods to call to list out what sports and events are available, so you can pick out what to pull into your scoreboard app.

Pretty basic stuff so far, where it really gets sweet is how we implement real time price streaming.

Get Prices

Our price products can be used to price up sports betting markets, either as a risk advisory tool for human operators or a totally automated pricing service, and cover a wide range of sports in-play with high fidelity price output.

In price products - particularly once fast paced events turn in-play - state and reliable delivery become important, but we’ve enabled our customers to nicely sidestep the costs and technical complexity this usually involves. When your API client registers interest in pricing up an event we build you your very own data object, which we call a channel, and then it works like pub-sub system. Our back end pricing engine is event driven, and as events occur which trigger price changes, those changes are accumulated in the channel you’ve subscribed to and delivered out to your system in real time over secure HTTP;

API price integration

This puts quite granular control of the product into the client-side’s hands, allowing you to programmatically build object(s) with any combination of markets and data that you’re interested in and then subscribe to your very own private feed over familiar transport.

By accumulating interesting data into user-defined objects this way we also buy back the robustness that dedicated WAN links gave us – if there is a network disconnection the client simply re-establishes an HTTP connection to the API and picks up where it left off – no lost updates or re-synching required.

That’s SSI in a nutshell. It’s the easiest integration in the industry, and from our perspective it scales out nicely - being just a collection of smart web services - and also enables us to accelerate the building of data-driven products for our own business too.


Jan said...

Hi Eachan,

I like the way you wrapped a pubsub system in HTTP. I would be interested in hearing why you didn't choose a "real" messaging system for your clients to connect to. Jabber or some AMQP implementation like ActiveMQ or RabbitMQ spring to mine. Nothing against your approach, however there are specialized systems for this.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the question Jan

We considered XMPP and that could have been a valid choice for us. Things like ActiveMQ etc wouldn't have been as suitable because our goal here was a totally portable integration. Proprietary messaging systems tend to need specific clients which are difficult to enforce when you don't have control or influence over the remote side (our customers are a large collection of heterogeneous implementations belonging to totally separate organisations).