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Yahoo ramps up tech to compete with daily fantasy sports pioneers

Lauren Brousell | July 24, 2015
Already a power player in online fantasy sports, Yahoo leveraged new technologies, embraced open source and allocated staff to add a daily fantasy component and compete with startups such as DraftKings and FanDuel.

Yahoo IT team built a new technology stack, but most of the core infrastructure, deployment and operations remained the same. The company uses a geographically distributed, high availability architecture and multiple environments for quality assurance, staging and performance testing to catch bugs. "Given this infrastructure, we're deploying several times a day with no human involvement," Hirano says.

Yahoo also turned to open source technologies, including Node.js, Redis and Storm to handle the daily operations. Hirano says Node.js helps Yahoo take advantage of expressive programming paradigms, and it's easy to find people who know how to work with the platform.

Using Redis and Storm for the daily operation will help Yahoo maintain site speed in high traffic situations, according to Hirano. For example, during NFL Sundays, Yahoo's traffic spikes when a popular player scores and millions of people check their phones to see how their team was impacted.

"Unfortunately for us, these customized scoring calls to our servers are quite expensive since unique league scoring and lineups make caching very difficult," Hirano says. "With Storm, every time a game update comes through our system, we're able to update all scores for all players in just a few seconds and store the results in Redis; essentially preprocessing and caching versus processing at serve time. Now the same real-time scoring calls are extremely fast since they are key lookups as opposed to customized calculations."

Hirano says they plan to use open source technologies for their traditional fantasy sports operations as well. "[T]his is not just a change for technology's sake; our users will see the benefit of a faster Web and app experience, as well as more personalized fantasy scores across our products."

Yahoo brought together engineers from across the company to work on the daily operation and tapped employees from its labs team with experience in payments, analytics and science.

Daily fantasy sports, Yahoo and the competition
Yahoo's daily competitors DraftKings, which was founded in 2012 and had $30 million in revenue in 2014, and FanDuel, founded in 2009 with $57 million in revenue last year, entered the daily fantasy market before Yahoo and exclusively offered daily fantasy competitions. Behind the scenes, DraftKings has a team of 75 engineers that manage the apps, website and analytics platforms, which were all built internally. The company hosts its hundreds of servers on Amazon's cloud and uses open source platforms such as MySQL and Node.js. The company uses 10 to 12 different analytics systems to crunch data on user behavior and marketing campaigns, among other things.

Paul Liberman, cofounder and COO at DraftKings, says the next few sports seasons are going to be a busy time for the company now that Yahoo is in the mix. "Yahoo is a renowned digital company and them choosing our space serves as proof of the growing popularity of [daily fantasy sports]." ( reached out to FanDuel for comment but didn't receive a response in time for publication.)


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