Apples preserve sporting feats

Australia's sports governing body, the Australian Sports Commission, has signed off on the purchase of 14 Apple Xserve RAIDs storage systems and three Xserve G5 servers for a new digital video asset repository to be opened early next year.

The commission's senior manager of information management Paul Stokoe told Computerworld there were two main drivers for the project - more storage capacity, and the need to share information.

"The reason behind all this is that sport uses video for performance analysis and sports scientists can then analyze techniques," Stokoe said.

"We have local stores for digital video but we're moving to being able to share between coaches, sports scientists, and medical staff. It's more efficient to have it centralized and we can also share information with key partners such as state and national sporting organizations."

The ASC chose Apple as a result of an open tender process but has not revealed the cost of the project.

Stokoe said Apple came out on top because all 42TB of Xserve RAID product was the best value for money, and had the best video handling performance.

"The ASC has estimated the immediate storage requirements of the new repository to be 40TB in the first year and 30TB per year for the next two years," he said. "We're not going to be able to store all our video, just the crown jewels - the video we need to share or keep for a long time. We have archives on tape but no plans to digitize it all so we'll take the most important 3 to 10 percent."

The ASC's IT infrastructure consists predominantly of Windows desktops but there is a strong presence of Apple PowerBooks for performance monitoring requirements, especially video. Server side, the commission has mainly HP Intel machines running Windows 2000.

MediaBeacon, a digital asset management application, will also be used for the video content. The MySQL database will be used for meta data searching. The end user interface will be Web-based.

The ASC also has applications developed in-house, particularly for swimming, which have their own storage and related issues.

Stokoe is the ASC's first "CIO equivalent", a role that was created a couple of years ago in line with the commission's increased focus on IT.

"IT played a standard support role until a few years ago when we needed to invest in IT to monitor elite athlete performance," he said.

"Now e-mail is the number one requirement as sporting people are in remote areas around the country and overseas. We're now seeing greater demand for the management of digital assets.

ASC at a glance

Number of screens: 750

Number of servers: 16

IT staff: 14

Hardware and platforms: HP, IBM, Alpha, Windows, Apple

Enterprise applications: Systems Union SUN Financials, CHRIS HR and Payroll

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