Giants Draft Storage System to Keep an Eye on the Game

With Barry Bonds on the verge of making baseball history, the S.F. Giants are bringing state-of-the-art video capabilities to AT&T Park, making it one of the world's most well-equipped high-tech sports venues.

SAN FRANCISCO—The sporting eyes of the world will be on AT&T Park this baseball season. Five years after playing in the World Series against the Los Angeles Angels, the resident San Francisco Giants reworked their lineup during the off-season to make another run at the National League pennant, including signing starting pitcher Barry Zito to a whopping $126 million, seven-year contract. In addition, AT&T Park will host Major League Baseballs All-Star Game July 10.

At the center of attention will be outfielder Barry Bonds and his quest to overtake one of the most hallowed records in sports: Hank Aarons career home-run mark of 755. As of press time, the 42-year-old Bonds was within 20 "dingers" of tying Aarons mark.

Watching it all very carefully will be not only the media worldwide and tens of thousands of fans at each game but also the ballpark itself, which is one of the most well-equipped high-tech sports venues in the world. Every minute of every game is videotaped and archived from the perspective of five high-definition cameras, and all that production work is handled on-site in a state-of-the-art video editing and production facility, located high above home plate.

The club also has a second video editing room located inside the players clubhouse. Players can use the video room anytime they desire for scouting upcoming pitchers, reviewing some of their previous performances or comparing their defensive play with that of players from opposing teams.

And all that digital data—not only video but also the clubs daily e-mail and archives, ticketing database, customer data, scouting database, retail database, organizational accounting data, sponsorship project data, and day-of-game employee scheduling—is handled by Data Domains DD430 system, alongside a couple of Nexsan Technologies arrays. The DD430 has eight 400GB drives configured as RAID 6 (six data drives, plus two parity drives). Counting all eight drives, one DD430 unit provides 3.2TB of raw capacity.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here for images of AT&T Parks high-tech changes.

Last year, the Giants decided to update and centralize their disparate IT systems, centering on the storage servers from Data Domain and Nexsan Technologies. The servers would be used as "home base," with the Giants IT personnel redirecting the teams sophisticated video system into a "hub" on those servers. The clubs business systems, Web site, on-site operations, Wi-Fi LAN and retail operation also were added. In October, the existing Hewlett-Packard application server and tape backups were taken offline, and the Data Domain-Nexsan arrays and storage servers were switched on. All the clubs data is backed up nightly and sent via a T-1 line to the backup Data Domain-Nexsan storage servers in its spring training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The Giants had been planning this consolidation for about a year. They looked at several other vendors and tested a few, but none of them could offer the scalability and pricing that Data Domain did. They declined to discuss the cost of the system.

The team has two DD430s: one at the ballpark in San Francisco, and one in Scottsdale. The Scottsdale unit is used for backup and disaster recovery during the regular season; in the spring, the players and view crew also use it for storing developmental video.

AT&T Park—originally known as Pac Bell Park, then SBC Park for two seasons—has undergone some ambitious upgrades since its own Opening Day in April 2000. Improvements include a huge—31.5-by-103-foot—high-definition video screen overlooking center field, a full-scale LAN that extends into the surrounding neighborhood, 275 flat-screen TV monitors for the corridors and Stadium Club level, and a large number of IT infrastructure enhancements.

Only a year ago, the team was still storing data on DVDs and 8-inch floppy disks, the latter of which were introduced during the Reagan administration. However, since last fall, the new Data Domain and Nexsan servers handle the storage for about 15TB of video for the Giants, plus all the teams business data. The Giants are able to easily transport—via a single T-1 line—any amount of digital video footage on demand from the stadium to the Arizona training facility.

"Were the first team to go digital with all our video," said Giants Network Engineer Dave Woolley. "We used to have a 750-slot DVD jukebox ... which we sold on Craigslist awhile ago. Somebody must have it in their living room by now. We stored 4TB of video on that box. Over the years, the system has evolved, and now we have a more traditional storage array system.

/zimages/1/28571.gifThe NFLs Baltimore Ravens are scoring points on the bottom line—and improving security—by outsourcing all of their data storage and management services. Click here to read more.

"The video quality has improved; the compression technology has improved. Now we log a game—during the game—and associate metadata with each video [clip], such as who was up at bat, what was the outcome, what was the speed and location of the pitch, etc. All of that [can be reviewed/studied] by the players after the fact."

The Giants have several "loggers" entering all the information, Woolley said. "They become highly skilled at this," he said. "But thats just during the games. Between games, we have our TiVo boxes capturing all the other games as well. We have to have recent video of the teams were about to play.

"There are two functions for the video coaching system: Theres player development—capturing video of our own players, comparing that video to other players, to past images of themselves, to past outings against another team and so on. Then theres video from other major-league teams, from minor-league teams, and more stored video from amateurs for our player draft. ... So this is really serving as a video hub for our baseball operations," Woolley said.

Next Page: Video available to all Giants players.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...