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Compellent SAN is added to Orlando Magic's IT lineup

NBA's Orlando Magic chooses Compellent Storage Center SAN for its thin provisioning, continuous snapshots, replication and automated tiering technologies ahead of a move to a new arena and complete overhaul of its video system.

The Orlando Magic are one of the National Basketball Association's most successful franchises, with a trip to the NBA finals in 2009 and the Eastern Conference finals last season. But when Frank Frazier joined the organization as project and application manager in January 2008, the team lacked a SAN and he had to do a full-court press to get his storage infrastructure ready to support a state-of-the-art arena due to open this fall. A Compellent Technologies Inc. SAN (Compellent SAN) was his pick.

The Magic had no backup system for the team's video operations, let alone any storage that could support the high-definition (HD) broadcast and video operations that will run in the new Amway Center. "We were only backing up with an antiquated tape deck, and just on the data side," Frazier said. "Just the emails and things like that, but none of our broadcasting operations, none of our basketball operations or our video edit system."

Frazier was looking at a complete network rip-and-replace and had to choose an enterprise storage system that would bring the Magic's infrastructure up-to-date to meet the franchise's rapidly changing video requirements.

He chose a Compellent Storage Center Fibre Channel SAN to back end the Magic's entire broadcast, basketball operations and enterprise application environment, which includes Symantec Corp.'s Backup Exec, a XOS Digital Inc. video platform, and Microsoft Corp.'s Dynamics CRM 4.0 and Great Plains (GP) financial applications.

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Now Frazier's entire IT infrastructure boots off the SAN. Almost none of his servers have hard drives, which makes it easy to recover when a server dies. "If a server were to die, we just snap off the image of that server, put it on another server, boot it up and it becomes live within a matter of minutes," Frazier said, claiming the whole process takes between two and three minutes.

The Orlando Magic has approximately 90 TB of capacity and is getting ready to purchase another 20 TB in anticipation of opening the Amway Center, which will have a 75 TB Compellent Storage Center SAN. The arena will run the same applications as the current SAN at the team's RDV Sportsplex Athletic Club practice facility, which is approximately 10 miles away. Each SAN will serve as primary storage site for its location, and a disaster recovery (DR) site for the other location. The Magic also has an office at the RDV Sportsplex Ice Den, and replicates data from there back to the practice facility.

When it moves into the Amway Center, the Orlando Magic's biggest storage challenge will be dealing with a complete conversion to digital signage and HD video. The new facility, scheduled to open Oct. 10, will have more than 1,100 HD television monitors, digital sign boards and digital ribbon boards. Frazier estimates that up to 70% of the HD television and digital signage will be tied back to applications on the SAN.

Frazier considered storage systems from EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Isilon Systems Inc. before settling on Compellent. He said he liked Compellent's features such as thin provisioning, Replay continuous snapshot, replication and Fast Track automated tiering. He uses 15,000 rpm 300 GB Fibre Channel drives for his tier 1 needs, such as financial, broadcasting, video and audio applications.

Frazier said he did not want to present systems to his financial people that required wholesale replacement projects down the road. "Most systems required us to rip-and-replace as we upgraded," he explained, "and because of our dynamic environment, and not knowing what was going to be in the new arena, not knowing all of the applications that we were going to curtail over the next three years, it was really easy to show them that whatever we buy early on, and each year as we grow, we won't have to swap it out. We were just able to add to the system and it automatically grew. That was easy for me to sell the costs, sell the growth factor and that five years down the line, it's not going to be obsolete."

He also noted that "this system has saved my butt many times." When he first installed the Compellent SAN, he set the system to take Replay snapshots every six hours for all 40 servers. Then he never changed the schedule. Soon he had more Replays than he had primary data. Frazier said he had to get a Compellent technical team to come to his facility to fix the mess he'd created and train him on how to properly use the feature. "The impressive part is that it never crashed. It never died. We never lost any data," Frazier said. "And not only did we not lose system speed, we never lost track of where the [snapshots] were."

The SAN also saved him when his server-room air conditioning quit because of a fire in another part of the facility. By the time his warning system alerted him to the danger, Frazier estimated that the temperature in the server room was close to 115 degrees. The server racks were so hot that he burned his hand touching one. But the SAN didn't die. "All I lost was one HBA card and a server," Frazier said. "Everything shut down, but once we were able to get the air conditioning back on, everything came back up. We lost no data, we lost no drives."

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