Miami Marlins Score a Hit With Cloud-Based Storage

Major league baseball has emerged as a data-driven sport. As teams look to gain a competitive advantage, many are turning to information technology to take performance to a new level.

One organization that’s swinging for the fences is the Miami Marlins. “We have a huge volume of video and multimedia files that require protection and long-term storage,” says Ozzy Macias, the Marlins’ manager of information technology.

The team captures every pitch, swing and catch—from spring training to the end of the season—and stores it permanently for future reference. It also generates a huge number of business files, including documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photographs and more.

In the past, the Marlins relied on a centralized storage-area-network-based block storage solution. But the situation wasn’t ideal. “We were using the same SAN for a performance tier as the long-term storage tier,” Macias notes. The situation created problems when managers, coaches and others wanted to share coaching videos within an application that wasn’t easily shared.

In addition, IT faced significant challenges in protecting more than 40 terabytes of total data. “There was no way to easily back up more than 9 terabytes of data captured by the video cameras and other data sources, along with an equal amount generated by the team’s entertainment and in-house scoreboard control room,” Macias explains. “Although we had highly functional enterprise-class storage in place, the system wasn’t scalable and flexible enough to meet our needs.”

As a result, the Marlins turned to a private cloud solution from Cleversafe, which relies on dsNet object-based storage technology on the backend with a Panzura controller as the local interface to the global file system. The solution, which went live in January 2014, introduced geographically dispersed erasure coding, along with virtualized and encrypted data “slices” that are spread across devices and storage nodes. A multi-location geocluster eliminates the need for more costly data replication.

“We can now go without any form of backup—though we take an old-school approach and back up once a month,” Macias says.

All of the team’s data is live and accessible at each of three locations: the ballpark and main facility, offices in the city and the team’s spring training location. In addition to providing a simpler, more streamlined approach to managing and sharing files, the initiative has reduced the demands on the IT department.

In the past, Macias says, one system administrator spent about 30 percent of his time addressing storage issues. The organization is now able to put staff to work more strategically— and without building a dedicated data center. The system also meshes with the Marlins’ existing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives.

Moving forward, Macias believes that the storage technology will support an expansion into big data and analytics. “We are now looking to gain a clearer picture into our expenditures and our net value from game to game and series to series,” he explains.

“Since the environment is object-based, we can pull data from the Cleversafe system directly using Windows Server 2012. This is a huge bonus, and it promises to further redefine the way we approach the business and run the team.”