Australian Rugby Union overhauls IT system in a flash

Australian Rugby Union has overhauled its IT system, taking on a flash-based datacentre as the backbone of its new infrastructure.
Written by Leon Spencer, Contributor

The national body overseeing rugby in Australia, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), has revealed it has overhauled its IT infrastructure, switching to a flash-based datacentre array from its legacy disk-based environment.

For ARU's IT infrastructure manager, Nick Payne, the new flash-based datacentre infrastructure has allowed the organisation to reduce its physical datacentre requirements and better facilitate its information-sharing and analysis function among its national footprint and partner organisations.

"Our ability to share services with our state divisions and member unions around the country is critical to our business operation," said Payne, who spoke at a media event in Sydney yesterday.

"They rely on our services for their core business functions such as CMS, team management tools, and substantial amounts of video content for coaching resources. This means our central services need to be performing at peak levels around the clock," he said.

ARU, in its role to support growth and development within the game from junior to elite playing levels, employs data scientists to analyse game and player videos that are made available for sharing across the organisation's national network.

Each week can see up to eight games for ARU, with each game requiring up to eight camera feeds, generating high levels of video footage for analysis, storage, and sharing.

According to Payne, ARU's switch from its legacy disk-based datacentre environment to the flash-based system has allowed the organisation to get a better handle on its data access for analysis, while also enabling it to reduce its physical datacentre footprint.

"We were running out of storage space, functionality was less than optimal and ongoing maintenance was expensive, so we decided to look for alternative options," said Payne.

"Our data storage requirements have dropped from 52 terabytes (TB) to just 10.5 TB," he said. "With this is the fact we've dropped out physical space requirements from half a rack — around 20 rack units (URs) — to just four RUs, which saves power in our datacentre," he said.

According to Payne, ARU was able to minimise its data volume thanks to the data reduction systems provided by Pure Storage, which supplied the flash data array for the IT system overhaul, in partnership with local integration partner, Solista, to design and implement the new infrastructure.

ARU's overhaul announcement comes as enterprise flash storage developer, Pure Storage, reveals three new products: FlashArray 405, offering up to 40 TB of space; FlashArray 420, supporting up to125 TB of data; and the FlashArray 450, boasting up to 250 TB of usable space.

The company also announced today its new Purity 4.0 software, which offers disaster recovery, data protection, security and Pure Storage’s proprietary snapshot services and compression technologies.

According to Michael Cornwell, Pure Storage’s chief technology officer for Asia Pacific and Japan, the new releases see the company provide an offering for all enterprise sizes.

"We now have a product portfolio that can cover all of the enterprise datacentre applications," he told ZDNet.

As the price of flash-based storage hardware has dropped over the past few years, it has become popular among organisations requiring high-speed I/O performance and low latencies for their applications. The hedge-find industry is quite fond of it because it can facilitate high-frequency trading.

Although still pricier than disk-based data storage systems, flash storage is becoming the go-to technology for organisations switching to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

According to Cornwell, a large number of Pure Storage's end users in Australia are in the education sector, with schools and universities switching to VDI in partnership with companies such as virtualised computing provider, VMWare.

Among the Australian schools to have taken on Pure Storages flash data arrays as part of an IT overhaul is Pymble Ladies’ College, on Sydney’s North Shore. In 2012, the school also adopted the suite of Cisco's video technology, including Cisco Media Experience Engine, Show and Share and WebEx.

Pure Storage, which announced its new product releases this week during its online Flash Visionaries Summit, is one of a growing number of players in the Australian market plying enterprise flash-based datacentre storage hardware, including EMC and NetApp.

In April, Pure Storage announced it had raised US$225 million in its Series F fundraising round, bringing its total fundraising tally to US$470 million. As of April, the company’s total valuation, by its own estimation, was placed around US3 billion.

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