Casino Bets on 64 Bits

Case Study: Itanium platform pays off for Pechanga Resort & Casino.

To target lucky customers with personalized incentives and awards, Pechanga Resort & Casino made a big bet on Intels Itanium platform.

Last year, Pechanga deployed two Itanium-based servers running business intelligence software used to analyze customer data and trends. The gamble paid off: The casino was able to reduce the time it took to query customer data from nearly a day to 2 hours.

"[Itanium] has been a very successful deployment here, and we feel were in a good position because were running the latest software, weve got the latest hardware thats out there and we have a really good analytical tool," said John Harris, director of IT at Pechanga, in Temecula, Calif. "Right now, Itanium is paying dividends," Harris said.

Opened in 1995, Pechanga Resort & Casino has a 188,000-square-foot casino floor—larger than the MGM Grand Casinos gaming floor in Las Vegas. Pechanga operates 2,000 slot machines, 158 game tables and 1,500 Class 2 (bingo-based) machines. The 800-member Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians owns and operates the resort and casino.

Like other casinos, Pechanga collects data on customers gaming preferences by using a frequent-gambler program. As players collect rewards for playing, Pechanga is able to gather information—such as how much time a person spent on a specific type of machine—to better serve its customers.

Last year, casino staffers began to develop a strategy that would enable them to more effectively target customers, allowing the casino to offer customized awards and deals. Harris decided that leveraging a database geared toward BI would allow Pechanga to offer personalized deals to specific gaming clients.

"We wanted to be able to look at our players, our customers and our patrons and be able to determine how to market to them better," Harris said. "We wanted to be more focused when doing campaigns and more strategic. We were already pretty successful, but we wanted the ability to analyze even further and drill down so that we could make intelligent business decisions at a fast pace."

Pechanga was using Hewlett-Packard DL580 servers—four-processor, 32-bit systems—for its BI environment. The servers were running ProClarity Analytics 6 from ProClarity (a division of Microsoft) and Microsofts SQL Server. To take advantage of the 64-bit capabilities of the analytical tool and the database, Harris wanted to migrate to a 64-bit server platform. Another impetus for the move was the casinos quickly growing customer base (currently at 800,000).

Harris considered x86 and x64 solutions from HP and Unisys, as well as competing x64 solutions. (For more on the Itanium versus x86, see the Labs-Eye View on Page 46.) In the end, he decided to purchase two Itanium-based Integrity rx8640 servers from HP for the deployment. The servers—each armed with 16 Itanium processors and 32GB of RAM—would provide the performance and scalability Pechangas IT managers wanted for their BI project.

"Hewlett-Packard seemed to have the best road map as far as getting on the Itanium boxes, and we were really interested in 64-bit computing," Harris said. "Itanium gave us the flexibility to scale out more—we felt we would be able to scale out a heck of a lot more on the Itanium product than on x86."

Success with Integrity

Harris brought the integrity servers into his data center earlier this year and took the servers live about three months ago. Pechanga uses the ProClarity analytical tool to drill down on its data and runs the 64-bit edition of SQL Server 2005 for reporting services. Since deploying the Itanium-based Integrity servers, Harris says he has seen a dramatic performance improvement.

Before the 64-bit server upgrade, it took ProClarity almost a day to run queries consisting of thousands of transactions. Harris said those same queries take as little as 2 to 3 hours on the Itanium platform—even better performance than he expected.

"We were shocked," Harris said. "We are constantly changing things in our business intelligence environment, and now we dont have to wait days for the data in order to move on something."

In July, Intel released the dual-core version of the Itanium 2 processor, and Harris said he is currently planning to upgrade his systems with the new chip. Code-named Montecito, the dual-core Itanium 2 processor can deliver up to double the performance of single-core chips with lower power consumption.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read a tech analysis on the dual-core Itanium 2 processor.

Based on the success he has had with his BI/Itanium deployment, Harris said he is considering purchasing additional Integrity servers to consolidate some of his database servers.

"If it makes sense, new technology—like Itanium—is purchased to support the casino," he said. "There is a realization that, in todays world, technology gives us a competitive edge."

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at

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