Fox Sports bets on private cloud

'We wanted to disrupt ourselves,' says Fox Sports CTO

Fox Sports has rebuilt its IT systems from scratch in under 12 months for a new production studio in Artarmon on Sydney’s north shore.

Seeking to build a private cloud, Fox Sports installed a converged infrastructure system from VCE in September 2012 while the new facility was still under construction, according to the company’s CTO, Michael Tomkins. The studio opened six months later, he said.

“The timeframes were against us,” he said at a lunch in Sydney hosted by VCE.

“If we built it [ourselves], there was no way we could have made the timeframe,” said Tomkins.

When Tomkins first joined Fox Sports three years ago, he arrived at an facility with “bespoke” IT systems, he said. “Everything was custom, everything was tailored. It was impossible to maintain.”

Three months later, the decision was made to move into the new production facility. But rather than simply migrate existing IT systems, Tomkins decided to take the opportunity to rebuild the IT environment.

“We wanted to disrupt ourselves,” he said. “We wanted to build something new.”

Central to the strategy was a decision that the new facility should be one-third traditional broadcast and two-thirds new media, he said.

It would have to support a tremendous amount of data. Tomkins estimated that the studio moves 40-50 terabytes of data every day, and every year the amount of annual data grows by 3 petabytes.

Tomkins looked for something that wouldn’t take much effort on Fox Sports’ part to install or manage.

“I didn’t want to maintain it. I didn’t have the skills to build it and certainly not the timeframe,” he said.

Fox Sports decided to create its own private cloud using Vblock from converged infrastructure systems provider VCE.

The production company is one of VCE’s first customers in Australia. The vendor is increasing its focus in the Asia-Pacific and Japan, recently adding new leadership, staff and partners and increasing its marketing in the region.

“The hardest thing about Vblock was actually getting it into the building,” said Tomkins.

The new studio’s central rack room, comprising 130 racks, “was basically set up inside the building while construction was going on all around it,” he said.

“We had a working rack room with limited power, limited air con and when the Vblock went in, it went into a building site.”

“When the Vblock fired up, that’s when we started firing up systems. Without that, there was no basis for the network.”

With the infrastructure-as-a-service approach, it is the vendor and not Fox Sports who has to deal with any problems. Even so, Tomkins said the Vblock has been very reliable in its first 18 months and his support calls have dropped by 75 per cent.

There has been only one disk fail and Fox Sports didn’t notice it until VCE called up to say it was being worked on, he said.

With the project’s success, Tomkins said he is a big supporter of IaaS.

“There’s no need to build if you can buy,” he said, comparing it to buying a car. “You can go and build a car if you want, but there’s so many chances, why wouldn’t we go and buy one?”

Adam Bender covers business tech issues for CIO and is the author of a dystopian novel about surveillance. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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Tags Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IAAS)VCEvBlockprivate cloudFox SportsCase Study

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