Swisslos is one of two Swiss lottery companies. Based in Basel, it provides the German- and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland (as well as the principality of Lichtenstein under contract) with lotto drawings, instant tickets, online games of skill, and sports and horse betting. Its proceeds benefit the arts, culture, sports, and other public causes. In 2017, Swisloss generated 553 million francs in gross gaming revenue and 380 million in net profit for distribution. Established in 1937, Swisslos made its 500th Swiss lotto millionaire by 2009 and now sells its lottery products at nearly 6,000 locations. The company has more than 200 employees.
Swisslos’ IT enterprise must meet certification requirements set by the World Lottery Association in order to guarantee the integrity of their data on the network. They must ensure that nothing can be manipulated somewhere before or after a drawing and that each lottery ticket that is generated actually exists.
Swisslos has 3,500 networked points of sale for its lottery products at outlets such as newsstands, restaurants, and post offices. These points of sale host gaming terminals and ancillary devices like TVs, set-top boxes, and touchscreens that are connected to its datacenter. But the 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 by the third party before it could install its own gaming terminals. The arrangement required visits by field technicians with IP addresses on paper each time a device or terminal came on or offline, something Swisslos readily admits was “really old-school.”
Swisslos set out to modernize its points of sale network configurations and devices. The company built its own virtual private network (VPN) over traditional DSL or fiber connections. And it swapped its TVs, set-top boxes, and touchscreen devices for ones with dynamic signage capability and zero-touch deployment. Now, these devices build VPN connections to Swisslos’ datacenter automatically. And by using BlueCat Address Manager (BAM), 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 networked points of sale had static IPs—an integrity measure used by the company to meet certification requirements and give each a unique fingerprint. Those terminals needed to keep their static IPs but had to be readdressed on the new VPN. Swisslos needed to find a way to plan the network and readdress the devices while avoiding using 4,000 pieces of paper to do it.
Swisslos couldn’t afford to have their small team of two network engineers taking the time to reconfigure gaming terminal IP addresses by hand or otherwise being consumed with work at points of sale locations. So, they turned to their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to automate the process.Knowing BlueCat’s robust API capabilities, Swisslos’s team programmed the API to automatically readdress the gaming terminals in BAM as they were managed in their ERP system. The new information was then transferred into IT’s planning system. A Swisslos field technicianstill had to visit each terminal for full reconfiguration, but the process was much faster, with IP data 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. Furthermore, Swisslos built their own tool to communicate between BlueCat and their ERP system. This ensures that, even if something changes in BlueCat’s API, it won’t disrupt their ERP system. Now, thanks to the automation benefits of BlueCat enterprise tools, points of sale can be easily opened and closed, and every step of Swisslos’ IP deployment for gaming terminals with static IP addresses is now automated.
Points of sale are also identified by fully qualified domain names (FQDNs) that are automatically integrated into BAM. Then, for example, when information is needed about a particular point of sale, Swisslos IT staff can easily search for it in BAM, and find and monitor all the devices and gaming terminals that are deployed there.
Joris Vuffray, Swisslos’ head of network and system engineering, says that BlueCat’s solution made the most sense from a network engineering perspective. Other companies’ offerings were too complex for his small team. “We wanted something simple and efficient. Something powerful but also easy to use and easy to deploy,” he says.“When you deploy such a system, you don’t want to have to take care of that system. You just want to deploy it and use it.”
Vuffray’s two network engineers are no longer bogged down with requests to provide IP addresses, saving their time and mindshare for higher-level endeavors. Time saved includes not only what it would have taken to do the readdressing by hand, but also the time that would have been spent doing quality assurance checks and controls. These activities can now easily be conducted with BAM. Swisslos has configured their monitoring system to automatically pull and integrate all IP data from BlueCat; if something in BAM is added or deleted, it will be deleted in their monitoring system, too.
But more importantly, Vuffray says, DNS automation with BlueCat 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.”
BlueCat’s DNS solution is now a daily part of Swisslos’ network enterprise, centralizing and syncing all of their network information. 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. Thanks to BlueCat, their network enterprise is now automated, compliant, secure, and transparent.
Swisslos was the winner of BlueCat’s 2018 Automation Impact Award.