The technology powering Fenway Sports Management isn't just focused on collecting stats such as RBIs or taken bases for the Boston Red Sox, but also on digitizing and improving the game experience for fans and players alike.
Brian Shield, senior vice president and CTO of the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Sports Management, said a hybrid cloud approach combined with partners such as Wasabi Technologies and IBM is enabling Fenway Sports Group to manage the massive amounts of video data its teams consume and further add to the experience for stadium attendees.
"This is not a competitive advantage like how we're going to win more ballgames," Shield said. "This is how we create a better service experience for our fans."
In 2019, the Major League Baseball (MLB) organization selected Google Cloud Platform (GCP) as the backbone for its cloud infrastructure, using almost every component and service sold by the hyperscaler, including BigQuery for data warehousing and Google Cloud Armor for network security.
The MLB transitioned to GCP from AWS just before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered stadiums to the public in 2020. The pandemic might have emptied the stands, but Shield said the downtime gave his IT teams time to refresh hardware and software for its cloud migration.
"We'd been dabbling with the cloud for years, but our move to the cloud really coincided with COVID," Shield said. "We had a little more time to get it right, and at that time, the MLB had just moved to [GCP] as a primary data environment -- and aligning with it all makes our lives easier."
Brian ShieldSenior vice president and CTO, Boston Red Sox
The MLB's GCP shift and the numerous SaaS applications used by Fenway Sports Management made Shield consider Wasabi for handling the storage needs of Fenway Sports Group, which also includes the Liverpool Football Club and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Shield wanted to avoid having to deal with egress fees for data shifted from cloud storage to different applications, which Wasabi eliminates from its storage pricing.
IBM Cloud Satellite, a private cloud platform, helps Shield and his teams run their on-premises hardware and software, send only relevant information relating to game day plays and statistics to GCP, and oversee the numerous point-of-sale and fan experience systems running at Fenway and the several other properties the company owns in the Americas and internationally.
"I think sports, compared to other industries, run a little bit leaner," Shield said. "As a result of that, having too many of the same vendors providing the same services is not your friend."
Too many tapes
The digitization of legacy team footage will remain a challenge for the Red Sox, Shield said.
While the park games are broadcast out at 4K resolution, now the standard resolution for sports media, many internal videos and playback systems are still at 1080p resolution, limiting the potential clarity and quality. The Red Sox plan to capture footage entirely in 4K within the next three years, effectively doubling the amount of data needed for storage.
Around 50 TB of active footage for video production editing is stored locally on a tier 1 system, which uses a Dell Technologies Unity 480F SAN. Less active footage, around 425 TB, is stored on a Dell EMC Isilon cluster. Footage older than two years is archived to Wasabi in the cloud.
"We have a lot of video content that we haven't fully digitized," Shield said. "It wasn't really cost-effective before. We digitize all our principal assets, but we've got a lot of other ones that we'll start to consume as well so we don't have legacy tape issues."
Shield expects Fenway Park's reliance on Wasabi cloud storage to grow in the coming years through IoT expansions such as a private 5G service in the park, improvements to surveillance systems and fan engagement services.
Tim McCarthy is a journalist from the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.