Cutting-Edge Storage Is a Goal for San Jose Sharks
By Samuel Greengard
A growing challenge for any business is making data and information widely and quickly available. For the San Jose Sharks, a professional ice hockey team that competes in the National Hockey League, it's critical to skate through a variety of potentially complex storage issues in an agile and flexible fashion.
The parent company, Shark Sports & Entertainment (SSE), operates the Sharks, along with a minor league hockey team near Boston, three ice centers in Northern California, SAP Center, a practice rink and a merchandise warehouse.
"There's a need to support a variety of operations and tasks, as well as mobile users," says Uy Ut, director of IT. "The goal is to provide maximum performance and an unsurpassed user experience." Overall, the IT department supports about 250 users, including some who travel across the United States and Canada.
The company turned to a Pure Storage FA-420 FlashArray last June. After briefly testing the device on systems that were not mission-critical, it rolled out the system across the company.
It uses solid-state storage to support a Citrix XenDesktop 7.0 virtual desktop interface (VDI) computing environment that runs SQL databases, Microsoft Exchange, point-of-sale systems, file shares, print servers and a variety of other enterprise applications. (Some applications and data, such as video, remain on older legacy storage systems that SSE is transitioning into the cloud.) Users access data via desktop and laptop computers, as well as mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones.
At present, SSE has just over 4 terabytes of data residing in the storage device, and its data volume is growing by about 15 percent a year. Ut says that the price premium for flash storage was more than offset by productivity gains, more consistent server performance and better compression.
The array has kept latency under 1 millisecond and has achieved compression ratios ranging between 4:1 and 12:1. Overall, the system delivers upward of 400,000 IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) compared to a previous disk technology that topped out at about 3,000 IOPS.
Ut evaluated a number of solutions—including disk storage, hybrid systems and other flash storage—before opting for the current environment. "Cost was a consideration," he says. "We sold the idea to management by emphasizing the end-user results: faster performance, higher employee satisfaction levels and the ability to work with cutting-edge—but not bleeding-edge— technology. Our employees, fans and audience expect that we will perform on higher-tier technology. We view it as a competitive advantage."
So far, flash storage has provided the level of performance, resiliency, scalability and efficiency that match VDI's demands. Moreover, Ut says that solid-state drives have nearly eliminated the oversight associated with previous disk-based systems. A dashboard provides immediate feedback about performance. What's more, the system handles deduplication automatically and has eliminated the need for any type of tiering.
"We don't have to worry about any service or person being treated as a second-class citizen," Ut says. "At the end of the day, everyone gets first-class performance all the time."