Miami Marlins use Cleversafe dsNet to chase pennant

The Miami Marlins deployed Cleversafe object storage and Panzura cloud controllers to store its video library.

In need of a storage system that could "scale forever" for a video system that tracks every pitch of every season, the Miami Marlins Major League Baseball team built a private cloud with Cleversafe Dispersed Storage Network object storage and Panzura controllers.

The Cleversafe-Panzura setup was part of a storage overhaul at the start of this year as the Marlins replaced a traditional SAN. Along with the object storage for video and business data, the Marlins added a hybrid flash array from Fusion-io for a performance tier that includes virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), Microsoft SQL Server and other applications that require high IOPS.

Video plays a key role in the team's scouting and coaching. The Marlins record 10-second clips of each pitch and then use metadata to describe the clip. The metadata can identify if the pitch was a curveball to the outside, or if it came with runners on first and second base with one out, and so on.

Coaches use the clips to prepare video-scouting reports and to review the performances of Marlins pitchers and hitters with each player. Players can even take video home on portable media to study their performances or watch opposing pitchers or hitters.

After several years of using video in this way, the Marlins have generated approximately 40 terabytes (TB) of coaching video and other unstructured data, including television broadcasts, in-game entertainment video, marketing, ticketing information, financial and operational information. Marlins IT manager Ozzy Macias said the club deletes none of this information, so it needed storage that would scale rapidly with reliable data protection.

"It was getting to the point where I needed something that would scale forever," he said.

After examining proposals from a group of vendors that included EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Nimble Storage and X-IO, the Marlins this year installed Cleversafe's Dispersed Storage Network (dsNet) at three sites. It also added Panzura Quicksilver Cloud Storage Controllers to cache data and serve as a file interface before moving it to the Cleversafe storage.

Cleversafe dsNet uses erasure coding and distributed namespace to store data as virtualized slices across its Slicestor appliance nodes. The Marlins installed nine Slicestor 2210 virtual appliances from Cleversafe: three each at Marlins Park in Miami, a category-5 disaster recovery site eight miles away and at a spring training facility in Jupiter, Florida. Each site is also equipped with one Panzura appliance.

A long-time "block-and-file guy," Macias didn't start out looking for object storage, nor did he understand it at first after IT consulting firm Syscom Technologies suggested a meeting with Cleversafe.

"We kind of stumbled across object storage," Macias said. "When Cleversafe came and showed us this object-based storage, I was ready to kick them out of the room. I said, 'I don't know what you're talking about, this is bananas.' It took a while for it to sink in. After so many years as a block storage guy, I didn't understand what they were showing me. But the concept sunk in over the next couple of meetings and I realized it had the potential to solve everything we were trying to do."

Macias said while his new storage set-up wasn't the most expensive nor the least expensive he looked at, it meets all of their needs.

Marlins video coaching coordinator Cullen McRae dumps the video from home games directly into the main data center at Marlins Park. A portable travel system is used for video of Marlins' road games and McRae will transfer that video onto Cleversafe storage when he returns home.

Because of geographically dispersed erasure coding with Cleversafe's dsNet, Macias said he doesn't have to worry about daily backups. "We back up once a month now," he said. "Between Panzura's caching and snapshots at all three sites and Cleversafe's replication, I can probably get away without backing up at all."

The Marlins want to expand the video system. By next season, they plan to install a dedicated WAN to allow baseball operations employees to immediately view game footage from minor league affiliates in Jacksonville, Florida, New Orleans and at the Dominican Republic Summer League.

Next Steps

The Fusion-io ioControl hybrid SAN is used for VDI that can support up to 300 virtual desktops. The Marlins use vSphere ESX as the main hypervisor and Citrix tools to create Xen applications and Xen desktops.

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