After sweeping the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, it appears that the Celtics' IT staff is on a roll!
About this time a year ago the Celts began the playoff run that brought them right to the brink of an NBA championship. At the time (April of 2010), the VP of Technology for the Celtics, Jay Wessel, did a joint webcast with EMC to describe the virtualized configuration deployed by their business.
One of the reasons that the team deployed a virtualized infrastructure was to enable “business innovation”. The Celtics organization acts like an enterprise business but is staffed like an SMB (about 100 employees). All of the employees wear multiple hats. The team has two IT specialists (including Jay), and the less time they spend on their IT gear, the more time they can spend on creative endeavors (analyzing data that can help with ticket sales, coaching strategy, etc).
Some studies suggest that roughly 70% of IT activity is spent maintaining, patching, and upgrading existing infrastructures (leaving relatively little time for other activities, such as innovation).
The Celtics, with their need for fast statistics analysis and video viewing/editing, chose to invest in a virtualized infrastructure. The configuration below depicts their IT infrastructure. It is simplified to the point that they enter their computer room a lot less often.
The picture represents a subset of their configuration. Business information rests on the EMC storage (CX). Video files get stored, viewed, and edited via the file server, and the rest of the business runs off of the VM servers, including:
- E-mail (Exchange and Web Client)
- Employee file shares
- SQL database for stats
- Blackberry Enterprise server
- Ticketmaster backup servers
- Citrix remote services
How does this configuration enable increased innovation by the business? By running multiple server images on fewer physical servers, the team no longer…
- Runs out of rack space
- Runs out of floor space
- Experiences downtime when a server is taken offline or fails
- Deploys multiple server vendors
- Schedules downtime for routine server maintenance
In the recent season, Jay Wessel used his extra time to focus on enabling “mobile IT”:
A major focus for our IT over the past year has been mobility. We've been striving to really get to the promised land of being able to deliver the relevant data for any given user, to any device, anywhere, at any time. For the basketball staff, we've been focusing on iPad/iOS. We can now deliver an enormous amount of statistical data in a useful format on a device that they actually like (iPad) that is fully portable physically and network-wise. The Coaching Staff regularly review their customized statistical iPad report that is updated every morning with the prior night's games.
Former Celtic player and current President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge:
I love the information we have access to now as a result of the team's investment in our IT infrastructure. We try to get as much information as we can for every decision we make, and we think the ability to distill large amounts of data into useful information for myself and our coaching staff puts our team in a better position to win.
In other words: It’s All About 18! Go Celts, Beat the Heat!