Buffalo Studios Maximizes Data Value to Build Competitive Edge in Social Gaming

Talend Big Data adds much-needed flexibility to data integration pipeline
Immediately, we saw that Talend offered a more mature and full-featured development environment than any other solution we were evaluating.
Barry Sohl, Chief Technology Officer at Buffalo Studios

Buffalo Studios, a subsidiary of Caesars Interactive Entertainment (CIE), creates fun and accessible social casino games that help friends build relationships through interactive entertainment. Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, the team’s most prominent project is Bingo Blitz, the world’s largest online free-to-play bingo game.

Buffalo Studios has millions of monthly active users and is consistently in the top of the charts on Facebook, iOS, Android, and Kindle. Barry Sohl, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, knows that the popularity of the company’s games can provide huge business opportunities—but only to those that understand how to use data effectively.

“Our industry in general is extremely data-driven,” says Sohl. “We all have to make marketing and product decisions based on the data we collect. That’s how we get ahead.”

In the case of Bingo Blitz, Buffalo tracks things like cards played per game, whether or not bingo is achieved, how many credits are earned and spent, and so on. “Every bit of data we collect is vital. And we have hundreds of data points in each game,” Sohl says, noting that the company processes over 100GB of data every day and expects that number to increase rapidly.

There is, of course, a catch. “Before it can be of value to us, we have to turn our data into actionable insight and competitive advantage,” he states. “That’s why it’s critical that our data is accurate and that it gets into our data warehouse.”

Eliminating costly bottlenecks

Getting the data into the warehouse used to be a rather large problem for Buffalo. The company was using a hodge-podge of custom code and Python scripts, and the result was far from ideal.

“Every week, we release new features for our games—Bingo Blitz in particular. And we need instrumentation around those features to see what’s effective,” explains Sohl. “We need to know who’s using which features, and how those new features are affecting the game’s ecosystem .”

But with its data integration setup, adding these new instrumentation points was extremely tedious. “We were dealing with an arduous, manual process,” says Sohl, “and the data team ended up becoming a bottleneck. New, important data would get stuck in the pipeline—and, often, never even made it past the raw logs.” Unfortunately, these repeated holdups led the Business Intelligence team to think that the data just wasn’t there. “But we were collecting it,” says Sohl. “It just never made it to the warehouse because the flow was so cumbersome. Events never got added.”

Sohl and his group knew they needed to find a solution that would provide greater flexibility at the data integration layer, so it could quickly add these new data instrumentation points and retrieve the critical data necessary to making smarter business decisions.

Talend proves its full-featured flexibility

Sohl’s team began searching for a best-of-breed vendor that could meet its need for more flexibility. “We considered a handful of options, or even doing it all ourselves in pure Java.” Then Talend came up in the company’s research comparisons. “Immediately, we saw that Talend offered a more mature and full-featured development environment than any other solution we were evaluating,” says Sohl. The company decided to conduct a proof-of-concept with both Talend and  other vendors—and Talend delivered the most successful results.

“We liked the fact that Talend’s data integration solution was Java-based,” Sohl recalls, “because that let us leverage existing skill sets in our team. And there was so much more flexibility. We could use a lot of the Talend solution right out of the box, in conjunction with writing our own custom Java code.”

Ultimately, Buffalo Studios opted to build a solution with Talend running the data integration layer, along with some customized Java components that could be managed within Talend.

Up and running

While the company did thorough due diligence to determine the most effective use of its Talend Big Data Integration solution, the implementation of its production version was quick and painless.

With the help of Artha Data Solutions, a Talend Consulting Partner, Buffalo Studios went from concept to production in a few short months.  And, because no one in the company had any previous experience using Talend, the company also opted to utilize online training. “That has definitely helped bump our engineers up in the learning curve,” says Sohl.

Ease of use leads to faster business intelligence and greater productivity

Today, Buffalo Studios is using its Talend Big Data integration solution to achieve the flexibility it previously lacked. “Now we can write our custom Java components, where we have specific parsing needs, and just wrap them inside Talend,” Sohl explains. “We are no longer a bottleneck for adding new data instrumentation points. Our developers can simply work with the tools and not worry about having to make manual changes under the hood.”

This simplified maintenance, in turn, makes it easier for Buffalo to quickly add its new data points each week. “We used to see bottlenecks in getting data past the raw logs,” Sohl says. “Now, that problem should completely go away.”

This benefit is of tremendous importance to Buffalo. If Sohl’s team cannot get critical data to the Business Intelligence group, “people are essentially flying blind,” he explains. “We need to measure effectiveness of our features—whether positive or negative—in near real time. The easier it is for us to instrument the data, the better the BI team can actually use the data. Talend is helping us streamline the process, achieve more agility, and get more value from our data.”

In addition, because they are no longer spending all their time fixing data integration issues, Sohl’s engineers are able to be more productive. “We can focus on building innovative new technology again,” says Sohl. “That’s what drives customer growth and loyalty.”

Looking ahead

Overall, Buffalo Studios is extremely satisfied with its Talend experience.

“We’re interested in exploring what Talend can do for us in terms of data quality,” Sohl says, “I see the potential for us to use Talend in applications more globally. There’s a lot for us to take advantage of as we move forward.”