Swisslos automates field operations using the BlueCat API

Rebekah Taylor

November 26, 2018

In July, we asked our customers to share their best DNS automation use cases for a chance to win BlueCat’s inaugural Automation Impact Award and pocket a $1,000 prize.

Our five finalists all presented compelling stories, demonstrating how they’ve reaped the benefits of time and money saved and errors reduced. Our winner, Swisslos, came out on top with their creative implementation of DNS solutions in an industry that we don’t often think of as having unique IT requirements: the lottery.

Swisslos is one of two lottery companies in Switzerland. It provides the German- and Italian-speaking parts of the country with lotto drawings, instant tickets, online games of skill, and sports and horse betting. The company’s IT enterprise must meet certification requirements set by the World Lottery Association to guarantee the integrity of their data on the network.

The Challenge (with a Twist)

Swisslos has 3,500 points of sale (at places such as newsstands and restaurants) with gaming terminals and ancillary devices like TVs, set-top boxes, and touchscreens connected to its datacenter. Previously, their networks were managed by third parties, a costly and complicated solution. At each point of sale, Swissloss had to wait for as long as two weeks for network and device installation before it could install its gaming terminals. The arrangement required visits by field technicians with IP addresses on paper each time a device came on or offline.

To modernize its points of sale, Swisslos built its own virtual private network (VPN) and converted its ancillary devices to zero-touch deployment. Now, using BlueCat Address Manager (BAM) for these devices, dynamic IP addresses are automatically allocated and configured over DHCP on two virtual servers.

Simple enough, but there was a wrinkle: The nearly 4,000 gaming terminals at their points of sale had static IPs—an integrity measure used by the company to give each a unique fingerprint. Those terminals needed to keep their static IPs but had to be readdressed on the new VPN. And Swisslos was not about to use 4,000 pieces of paper to do it.

Enter BlueCat

Knowing BlueCat’s robust API capabilities, Swisslos’s IT staff programmed the API to automatically readdress the gaming terminals in BAM as they were managed in their company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The new information was then transferred into IT’s planning system. A Swisslos field technician still had to visit each terminal for full reconfiguration, but IP data was accessible by smartphone.

Now, in just a couple of hours, a point of sale is networked over Swisslos’ VPN and ready for installation. And with BlueCat’s API, Swisslos can plan out their network and reserve and name IP addresses. Points of sale are also identified by fully qualified domain names (FQDNs) that are integrated into BAM, making look-up and monitoring a cinch. And planning for new points of sale, devices, or ERP system changes now includes automatic IP address provisioning.

The Payoff

Joris Vuffray, Swisslos’ head of network and system engineering, says that their BlueCat solution is now a central part of their network. It will also be essential for helping the company to expand their VPN to another 2,500 unnetworked points of sale in the next couple of years.

“It holds all the information about the network,” Vuffray told us about their solution. “We know which device is where, and the IP addresses of the device, and we can integrate that automatically into our monitoring system, which gets the information from BlueCat’s systems. If something is deleted there, it will be deleted in the monitoring system, too. Everything is in sync.”

Thanks to BlueCat, Vuffray’s two network engineers are no longer bogged down with requests to provide IP addresses. But more importantly, he says, automation has helped Swisslos avoid costly errors. “If you do this manually, you can be sure that in two, three, or six months’ time some of the steps will be forgotten. You will miss device names or you will miss some IP addresses somewhere, and your system will not be in sync anymore,” he says. “With these kinds of process definitions, and then sticking with and automating the process, you can make sure that every step will be done correctly and that you won’t miss something. It avoids mistakes. And we all know if you have some mistakes in the process it will cost you even more time to correct it.”

As Vuffray wrote in Swisslos’ award submission, “This solution was game-changing for our company, as it allowed us to spare loads of time and money for the network engineers and the backend users. It guaranteed us a strong quality in the management of IP addresses and FQDN for all our points of sale. Everything is now automated, compliant, secure, and transparent for the end users of our backend system.”

Vuffray says his team hasn’t decided yet how they’ll spend their winnings, but that’s it’s an especially sweet boost for IT, which tends to only see the spotlight when things aren’t working. “For us, it’s always a pleasure to show that we are also recognized for what we’re doing—that we’re not doing everything wrong, but doing modern stuff,” he says. “That’s important, too.”

Congratulations to Swisslos for hitting the automation jackpot!

Read more about Swisslos’ BlueCat implementation in our customer case study.

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Rebekah Taylor is a former journalist turned freelance writer and editor who has been translating technical speak into prose for more than two decades. Her first job in the early 2000s was at a small start-up called VMware. She holds degrees from Cornell University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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