Our website availability has been great since we moved to AWS. We have consistent performance, even under high traffic loads, so our contestants know they can always rely on the site being available on game day. 
Tim Weisbrod Chief Technology Officer and Cofounder

FantasyDraft, founded in 2014 and based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a fantasy sports website. Sports fans use the site to draft teams of athletes in major sports, paying to enter contests in which their athletes score fantasy points according to the site’s scoring rules. The winners of each contest can win real cash prizes and once-in-a-lifetime experiences with professional athletes.  

Website availability is vital for FantasyDraft, particularly on days when sporting events take place. “Uptime is critical for us, especially in the final minutes leading up to a game when contestants are making last-minute game-time decisions,” says Tim Weisbrod, chief technology officer and cofounder of FantasyDraft. “A critical component of our ‘#PlayersFirst’ commitment is ensuring availability of the platform, so all our contestants can make last-minute decisions to get the most out of game day.”

FantasyDraft also needed to be able to scale to support hundreds of thousands of connections on game days. “We are a small company, and we have to have the ability to scale up our web server resources on Sundays during football season,” Weisbrod says. “We need to have enough compute power to give all our users a great experience.” Additionally, the company wanted to automate its scalability. “We usually see traffic surges in the last 15 minutes before a contest closes, and we wanted to be able to schedule more servers to support that,” says Weisbrod.

The company also wanted to give its software development team the agility to deploy code changes more quickly. “We have new software releases every other week, and we wanted to give our developers the ability to do rolling code changes,” says Weisbrod. “We also wanted to have multiple development environments to test functionality and load testing before rolling changes into production.”

Ultimately, FantasyDraft had to address these business needs cost-effectively. “As a startup, saving money on compute resources is critical,” says Weisbrod. 

To meet its needs for high availability, scalability, and development agility, FantasyDraft decided to move its website to the cloud. The company initially hosted the site on a large cloud services provider, but soon ran into scalability challenges. “The demand we experienced on game day—thousands of simultaneous connections—was higher than we anticipated, and the technology we were using didn’t support it,” says Weisbrod. “We needed to figure out an alternative quickly.”

The company’s search for a new solution led it to Blue Sentry, an Advanced Consulting Partner of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network (APN) that creates private cloud environments on AWS. Blue Sentry introduced FantasyDraft to the APN Acceleration Program, a program that provides funding and other resources to support APN Partners as they help customers quickly migrate to AWS. “Through the APN Acceleration Program, Blue Sentry helped us move quickly to AWS and remove any barriers to migration,” says Weisbrod. “That made our planning easier and definitely helped us financially as well.”

Blue Sentry worked closely with FantasyDraft to move its website to the AWS cloud. “Blue Sentry was a great partner for us. They worked tirelessly to help us migrate to AWS, and they were in the trenches with us the whole way to help us achieve our goals,” says Weisbrod. FantasyDraft uses Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL, which gives the company the ability to quickly set up, operate, and scale PostgreSQL deployments in the cloud. FantasyDraft also uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances and takes advantage of Auto Scaling in AWS, which enables the company to scale its EC2 capacity up or down automatically depending on predefined conditions. “Our demand fluctuates a lot, so we use anywhere from 30 to 100 EC2 instances,” says Weisbrod. “That automated compute scalability was one of the main reasons we wanted to move to AWS.”

FantasyDraft uses AWS CloudFormation templates to automatically deploy its networking infrastructure, and the Ansible software platform to deploy software packages, application code, configuration settings, and other necessary items. “We use a fully scripted deployment process through Ansible, which gives us no-touch deployment,” says Weisbrod. The company also uses AWS CloudFormation templates and Ansible to automate software deployment in a second region in western United States as well. “We have more resiliency by being able to use that region for failover,” says Weisbrod. “That also gives us much more flexibility in terms of overall management of the platform.”

The FantasyDraft website is now reliably available around the clock to contestants, reducing financial risk for FantasyDraft. “Our website availability has been great since we moved to AWS,” says Weisbrod. “We have consistent performance, even under higher traffic loads, so our contestants know they can always rely on the site being available on game day.” Overall site performance has also increased. “Our website performance has increased 20 percent since we moved to AWS,” says Weisbrod.

The company can now scale its web servers on demand to support game-day traffic and other periods when user activity increases. “On Sundays during football season, we can quickly scale the servers that run our platform by tenfold using AWS,” says Weisbrod. “That’s powerful for us, because it ensures we always have enough compute power to meet contestants’ demands.” Additionally, FantasyDraft can scale automatically to meet unforeseen demands. “If we have an unexpected wave of visitors to the site, Auto Scaling helps us make sure we’re not caught off guard,” says Weisbrod.

The company’s developers now have the agility they need to keep pace with the company’s changing software needs. “We can spin massive load testing environments up and down using AWS, which helps us see how our system will behave with new code changes and also how growth in users with affect our existing systems,” says Weisbrod. “That developer agility gives us more flexibility overall, and it helps us deploy changes with more confidence.”

FantasyDraft has also been able to significantly reduce its operating costs by using AWS. “We saved 10 percent initially on compute costs by using on-demand EC2 instances, and we were able to save us another 40 percent by investing in reserved instances,” says Weisbrod. “So we’ve basically cut our costs in half overall by using AWS.”

As it continues to grow, FantasyDraft plans to use additional AWS services. “We see a long future ahead in fantasy sports,” says Weisbrod. “There is incredible potential from an enormous marketplace of customers who love sports, and we hear consistently how playing Daily Fantasy makes their experience with sports more fun and engaging. We’re very happy to have our platform on AWS to help us address the demands that growth to meet this opportunity creates. AWS gives us the availability, flexibility, price, and performance our website needs.” 

Blue Sentry

  • An Advanced Partner of the AWS Partner Network (APN). North Carolina–based Blue Sentry migrates and manages workloads for its clients within a secure private cloud environment. Blue Sentry specializes in DevOps automation and CI/CD deployments on AWS.

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