Betting on the cloud

Betting on the cloud

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos’ data center and cloud strategies has created a “triangle of resiliency” and new customer and community support opportunities.

Gaming revenue is the lifeblood of casinos. When the games go down, profits fall with them.

“If all of our games were to stop working, we would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars every hour,” says Jeff Brooks, CIO of Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos, which runs nine casinos in eastern Oklahoma. “In our business, downtime is a very bad thing.”

It’s also a reality when your operations are located in “tornado alley.” The Muscogee (Creek) Nation has faced devastating twisters, extreme flooding, and the power outages that come with them. Such events have wiped out the casinos’ server room batteries and backup generators, debilitating data, communications, and gaming systems.

Previously, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos’ business applications were decentralized and managed by each casino property. And yet, the casinos were supported by a lone data center with little to no storage capacity or backup capabilities, creating a single point of failure.

“We needed more redundancy,” says Brooks, “with better application and administration flexibility.”

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos had a two-phase plan:

  • Unify the casinos’ business applications while simultaneously expanding the infrastructure that supports them.
  • Build an internal cloud that streamlines technology administration and costs, while creating new opportunities to drive revenue and support the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

Expanding infrastructure, unifying applications
To keep gaming and business operations running, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos expanded its technology infrastructure from one data center to three, tied together using a metro area network (MAN). With a FlexPod foundation—featuring the Cisco Unified Computing System™ (Cisco UCS®) based on Intel® Xeon® processors, Cisco Nexus® Series Switches, and NetApp storage components—the data centers form a “triangle of resiliency” that delivers exceptional redundancy and fault tolerance.

“Any of the three data centers can take on 100 percent of our load at any time,” Brooks explains. “In the unlikely event that two of our data centers go down, we won’t miss a beat.”

While Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos’ technology infrastructure was expanded, its business applications were brought together using a private cloud. Gaming software, and storage resources are no longer be tied to a specific property because nearly everything is virtualized, back-office applications. This has eased systems administration while also lowering licensing costs.

“Instead of paying for software licenses for each gaming property,” says Brooks, “we have a single instance that is used across all of our properties.”

Driving customer and community support
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos’ new technology infrastructure is also delivering additional business insight and opportunities. With application data unified across the nine locations, casino leaders are using business intelligence and data analytics to better understand and serve their customers.

“In the past, we couldn’t track our patrons’ activities across our locations and we couldn’t determine the ROI of our marketing activities,” Brooks explains. “We now have a much more holistic view of our customers, how and where they spend, and which promotions they respond to. Not just for games, but entertainment, point of sale, food and beverage—for everything.”

He adds that deeper customer insights lead to better, more timely services and promotions, which improve customer attraction, retention, and spending. This will be critical for a new partnership with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville that will expand Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s flagship River Spirit Casino property in Tulsa.

  • The expansion will include a new Margaritaville gaming area, hotel, entertainment venue, and restaurant.
  • The FlexPod infrastructure will greatly ease the development, deployment, and administration of Margaritaville data and communications services—and help maximize the revenue potential of the new venture.

“We need to understand our non-gaming patrons,” says Brooks, “so we can grow that area of our business.”

In addition to casino expansion, Brooks is planning to extend the Muscogee (Creek) Nation cloud beyond its core business. He foresees opportunities in the future to deliver a wide range of services—spanning healthcare, housing, welfare, and elderly assistance—to Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s 75,000 citizens.

“The combination of Intel chips and Cisco UCS has been a key enabler for us,” says Brooks. “They are built for virtualization and the cloud, which gives us a tremendous amount of security, flexibility, and scalability, not to mention peace of mind. We’re just scratching the surface of what we can do with our new infrastructure—not only for our casino business, but for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.”

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