3 min read

CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos turn to the channel to upgrade IT systems

Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium, via Flickr user Mack Male

The growing demand for new technology and more digital storage has been well documented from a business perspective, but there are other sectors flying under the radar that struggle with digital transformation as well – including sports teams.

The Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Edmonton Eskimos, for example, have been stuck using unreliable legacy hardware for years and after updating to a modern CCTV camera security system, lacked the necessary storage for all the data it produces. The team reached out to the technology channel community just before the beginning of the 2017 season and decided to partner with Scale Computing to update its technology.

“When I started this job, I inherited a bunch of random servers that needed to be consolidated and upgraded,” Darren Woolston, the Eskimos’ manager of information technology, tells CDN. “I reached out to some of the tech vendors I know and they recommended Scale Computing and their hyperconverged technology. I was instantly impressed with their demo, so when the quotes came through it was, frankly, a no-brainer.”

Hyperconverged systems are fully software-defined IT infrastructures that virtualize and integrate all elements of traditional hardware systems into one cohesive layer. Run off standard servers, hyperconverged infrastructure involves software like virtualized computing (a hypervisor), virtualized storage, and virtualized networking.

“Instead of having an IT system where all the elements are independent and talk to each other through a mediator, a hyperconverged infrastructure is truly one single system where every layer communicates with each other,” Scott Mann, country manager at Scale Computing, explains to CDN. “Because it’s more cohesive, it’s also more intuitive and smarter than other systems in a self-managing way so IT professionals don’t have to spend time managing it themselves.”

Scale Computing sent an engineer to Commonwealth Stadium, the facility owned by the city of Edmonton where the Eskimos play, to set up the hyperconverged system. Woolston says the process of bringing it in and implementing it was so simple, it only took a couple hours. Migrating the team’s data and setting up templates on the new system took a day or two, and the team is planning on adding another node to the system for more data storage in the first quarter of 2018, he adds.

With CFL teams making approximately 90 per cent of their income in the span of just 10-11 business days, migrating to a better, more streamlined system is arguably one of the most important moves the 14-time Grey Cup winner Eskimos have made on or off the field.

“A football team has an odd business model and while we do have the same needs as any organization, it’s a different mindset when most of your revenue revolves around 10 home games over the span of seven months. Everything is geared around that calendar and nothing can go wrong,” Woolston points out. “When you’re out of season, you’re planning for the season, and when you’re in season, you’re planning for game day. This new hyperconverged system removes a lot of my concerns, frees up my time for other issues, and overall, it’s a big step in improving the experience of game days.”

He advises all other CFL teams looking to update their IT systems to talk with a local solution provider to see what solutions they would recommend.

“IT professionals always want to simplify their jobs as much as possible, and this holds true even for IT departments on sports teams. This platform has been a joy to use since we got it and it has removed a lot of the headaches we used to deal with that. It offers hardware redundancy so on crucial game days, if anything goes wrong, I have extra peace of mind knowing that it won’t blow up in front of my eyes,” Woolston says.

Scale Computing’s Mann expands on this, adding that hyperconverged technology allows IT managers to rest a little easier and also plan for the future.

“Hyperconverged basically revolutionizes IT architecture and its future-proofed for new trends emerging in the industry because it can be easily and cost-effectively expanded whenever you need more storage. It’s also the best bang for your buck, not just in terms of dollar-to-dollar comparison with other systems, but also in terms of the benefits it offers. It’s integrated and intuitive, reliable, expandable, easy to use, makes disaster recovery a breeze, and has great return on investment,” Mann concludes.