Tampa Bay Rays Hit Home Run with Virtualization from VMWare and Use of Tablet Devices
Tampa Bay Rays Hit Home Run with Virtualization fromVMware and Use of Tablet DevicesTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast from WMworld 2011 Conference in Las Vegas on how amajor league baseball team is streamlining operations with virtual technology.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: VMwareDana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to a special BrieﬁngsDirect podcast series coming to youfrom the VMworld 2011 Conference in Las Vegas. Were here in the week of August 29 to explore the latest in cloud computing and virtualization infrastructure developments. Im Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and I’ll be your host throughout this series of VMware-sponsored BrieﬁngsDirect discussions. [Disclosure: VMware is a sponsor of BrieﬁngsDirect podcasts.] Today’s consensus is no longer around an "if" for cloud computing and large-scale virtualization, but the "when," and what types of cloud models are best suited for anyparticular business.The present challenge then is about the proper transitions to improved IT for better businessresults. Our next VMworld case study interview focuses on the Tampa Bay Rays. Theyre aMajor League Baseball team and theyre using an extensive amount of virtualization.Theyre also extending the value of virtualization into disaster recovery (DR). And they have juststarted bringing more and more of their applications, data, and processes out to the mobile tierusing virtualization and thin-client approaches to make the mobile device, the tablet, superpowerful for them.Please join me now in welcoming Juan Ramirez. He is the Senior Director for InformationTechnology with the Tampa Bay Rays. Welcome to BrieﬁngsDirect, Juan.Juan Ramirez: Thank you. How are you?Gardner: Im doing great. We know that youre a baseball team. People understand the sportsside of things, but obviously theres a lot more to a baseball franchise these days when it comesto technology and media and distribution. So were going to hear some more about how thatworks. Tell me a little bit ﬁrst about the size of your IT organization. What does it take to supporta major league team?Ramirez: First of all, coming from a small-market team, we don’t have the luxury to have alarge IT department to support the 300 plus users that we currently have. So it’s very importantfor us to be very proactive and be ahead of the game.
It is a 24×7 operation, especially during the season, which as we all know, is one of the longest inprofessional sports, with 162 games per year, not counting playoffs. So it is challenging for us,but I believe that we have a great team.We also have great resources that weve implemented in the last ﬁve or six years and were on topof it. Without VMware and the different products that we deploy, I think today wed be in a lot oftrouble if we wouldn’t have gone that route.Gardner: Im glad that youre optimistic that youre going to be there for the full length of theseason, well into the playoffs, perhaps even longer.Why has virtualization, in general, been good for you? As you say, youre trying to get a lot ofbang for your buck. You probably don’t want to be dealing with administration issues, time inand out, day in and day out. Why has virtualization been good for your organization?A lot of issuesRamirez: Back in 2007 when we ﬁrst looked out at virtualization, we had a lot of issues. Our main data center was located at our stadium in Saint Petersburg. We were actually running out of space. Electricity was a huge problem. We kept hearing from our operations department that our data centers and our equipment were just consuming too much energy. We had to come up with a new data center. We needed to build something else, because we were just basically outgrowing it. We needed a plan to say, "You know what, this is going to be our new data center. Were going to be there 5 to 10 years," without going back and requesting additional space or consuming more electricity.Thats when everything started. We went from a two-room data center room to basically justusing half of that room with virtualization. We started very small -- four hosts to manage ourown infrastructure. Now we have 10 hosts in production and growing.Another dilemma that we had was every time we needed to provision servers, or a newapplication needed to be introduced, it would have taken weeks, if not a month, for us to procurethe proper hardware and software to make this available for different departments. So we neededto cut time on that and make things happen faster. It is a fast business.Gardner: So I understand that virtualization has been good for you, but to what degree have youactually delved into it? Are you at 60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent virtualization?Ramirez: Currently, were at 95 percent. We had certain goals to start -- about 50 percent -- andgradually every year just adding more and more resources. At 95 percent, you can see that wereally value this, and this is the route that our business is going to.
Gardner: Clearly its working for you. Tell me about how many apps youre supporting? Whatsort of workloads have you have got? To what degree can we help our listeners understand whatit takes to support a major league baseball team from the IT perspective?Ramirez: From the applications perspective, we have everything from our scanning application, which is homegrown SQL back-end, Windows application front-end, and web-based front-end to our ﬁnance departments, Great Plains, Microsoft Great Plains 2010. We also have our customer relationship management (CRM) system,which runs on a proprietary application from Ticketmaster, to homegrown application. Close to10-30 applications are used on a daily basis from every department and different aspect, which isincredible.Our email system, Microsoft Exchange 2010, is 100 percent virtualized. And every newapplication that comes up in our pipeline is basically virtualized. Going forward, nothing residesin our physical server, which is tremendous for us.Popular websiteGardner: And of course you are supporting your ball club, so that would be sort of the B2Eside of things, but you also have a very big and popular website. Increasingly, I have to imagine,the way that you interact with your fans is as much or more online as it is at the ballpark or onthe road, right?Ramirez: Yes. Our front-end to our fans, raysbaseball.com, is actually managed throughMLBAM, a division of MLB.com.Gardner: Right, so its sort of a federated, almost a cloud approach I suppose, right?Ramirez: Correct.Gardner: Lets get back to what youre doing with virtualization. How has the VMware suite,the stack, helped you out? What have you been using in order to get to that really impressive 95percent level?Ramirez: When we started it, we wanted to go slow and to make sure that everyone throughoutthe organization had a good feel for it, a good vibe. Once we earned the trust from the differentdepartments and other department heads, we introduced it, we showed them and we trainedthem. It was a no-brainer. Everyone was on board. Everyone loved the technology. Just loved thefact that while it previously took weeks and months for them to provision anything from ourdepartment, its now hours, at the most, which is great.
It also helps us big time with DR. Our second data center is located in our Port Charlotte SpringTraining facility. Its easier for us to move workloads, depending on where were at in the seasonand the time of the year. We can move a machine from the production main data center to thebackup data center and provide those resources over to our different departments.Gardner: That’s interesting. For your DR, how long have you been doing that, and what haveyou been using to manage that. That could be kind of a thorny problem for folks to decide whatresources to allocate and what to keep in which data center and so forth?Ramirez: When we started it, it was a very tough decision, because we wanted to do everythingautomated, but management did not see the need for it. So we actually started with manualprocesses. We started building a data center down in Port Charlotte. We did some migrations andthat didn’t work out too well. So we came back to the drawing board and said, we need a toolthat can help us automate this process. This has to be 100 percent automated.Our recovery manager had just come out and we wanted to test it. We actually beta tested it andreceived some eval licenses. We put together a quick product to show administration andmanagement how good the product was and how important it was to us, especially in the locationthat we are at.The rest is basically history. We have pretty much 100 percent coverage on everything that isvirtualized. Were able to take periodic snaps and move them over to the VR facility, where wedo a weekly test of each individual virtual machine (VM).Gardner: Yes. So that must make you sleep a little better during hurricane season I imagine?Ramirez: Absolutely. It used to be nightmare from June to the end of September around here,but not anymore.Gardner: Lets move into this other innovative area you have been experimenting with, and itsthe use of VMware View 4.6, the latest version. Youve been involved with moving into thinclients, virtualized desktops, and I understand also using mobile apps on tablets. Tell me whythats been important for you and what youve done?250 remote usersRamirez: Throughout the year, weve grown tremendously. We now have close to 250 remoteusers. All those remote users need to be equipped with very expensive laptops. Its veryexpensive and very hard to manage.Were a small IT department. Its very hard to track down 250 users throughout the year. Its veryhard to keep older machines up-to-date. When something goes wrong, it gets ugly pretty fast. Weneeded to get an alternative and come up with a plan where it would be easier to manage, whereit would be easier for them to conduct their work.
We started very basic by putting the in VMware View client. First of all, we set up a lab here andasked a few of our key guys to test and give us some feedback. The feedback was overwhelming.We started with ﬁve or six guys, and now we probably have close to 65 users using it on a dailybasis.Users have come back and handed in their laptops. Now, theyre strictly on iPad or Androidtablet, which is tremendous for us. Its easier for my department to manage. Its easier for them togo out there on the ﬁeld and just use a lightweight device to connect and conduct business withit.So its big for us right now. It should be a huge hit in the upcoming year. With our developmentdepartment, everything that we are projecting is basically basing it on VMware View.Gardner: In addition to VMware View, you also seem to be using an iPad app, how did thatcome about? How does that ﬁt into the equation?Ramirez: That came as we started adding more users and receiving feedback. I started using itfor my daily management show, introduced a few key personnel to it, and they liked the idea.Now, everyone is basically using that app to connect and do most of their work.We decided to introduce other departments and show them the capability and how easy it is toconnect and get their business done without turning on their laptop -- waiting for it to boot, theVPN, the password, and all that stuff that sometimes gets in the way.Gardner: I understand you have scouts, managers, you have lots of folks out in the ﬁeld. Theyreat ballparks. Theyre watching ballplayers. Theyre in the ﬁeld, and can they just download aniPad app and then sign into VMware View/ How do they actually connect in, and what are thelogistics for really linking your resources and apps out to that ﬁeld?Everyone wants a tabletRamirez: Everyone in the organization, I guess, wants a tablet. They come to us, which helpsus big time. Normally we do the procurement for them, or if they go out there and buy it, theywill just bring it over to us, and by default our installation and process includes that application.Its the ﬁrst application that theyre introduced to.My department is able to ﬁgure the necessary settings on the application and just leave it readyfor them and let them know that right now you can just use your iPad application to connect intoyour resources and conduct, and use most of the applications that you will be using on a dailybasis. Its a big plus for us and for the user. They just love the fact that they have a smallapplication, a small tablet, and one application to deal with. Everything else is handled from ourend.
Gardner: So this is productivity for you, because youre supporting more users in the way thatthey want to work, probably with fewer resources when it all comes down to it, when you canconsolidate. And then theyre getting that added productivity of access to the data and the appswherever they are, whenever they want to use it. So its kind of a win-win.Ramirez: Absolutely. From a management perspective, it’s great, its awesome, getting apps fora better application and a better system to have deployed.Weve had nightmares throughout the years, lost laptops with very sensitive information. Wehave to protect users, and there are so many things that goes on on a daily basis. Now if theresan issue, it just takes seconds to correct, and the users just go back in and continue doing theirwork.Gardner: Let’s look at some of the metrics of success here. Weve talked about virtualization ingeneral. Weve talked about disaster recovery and also the thin apps and iPad tablet mobile tierbeneﬁt.Do you have any statistics of what any of these have done for you, maybe in the form ofhardware expenses or energy use or even real estate? What’s been the return on investment (ROI)for you moving in these directions?Ramirez: The ROI has been huge. We used to buy 10-15 servers on a yearly basis. Now, we justprocure our servers every three or four years. We get hit from left and right with differentdepartments. They have different needs -- we need 10 servers, we need 15 servers. We no longerhave to procure those and spend all that money right away. We have resources allocated for it.So the ROI has been there. As a matter of fact, we did research two years ago and havediscovered that on our initial investment for both data centers the return on investment was 24months, which was probably more than we thought. We didn’t realize how fast we were able torecoup our investment and how much ﬂexibility we had moving forward.For DR, we were coming from a situation where we had nothing. Everything was in one datacenter, and if a storm came by, we would basically be out of business. Having a fully automatedsystem in place is huge for us.Very importantI don’t even know where to start and what number to tag this with, but it is very important to us.It has helped with insurance cost. It has helped with just the ease of everyone knowing that ifsomething happens near our stadium, we have our data and we can still conduct business movingforward.Gardner: Other than the anecdotal side of the productivity from your end-users, are there anyhard numbers that you can apply to the mobile? Are you buying fewer laptops, for example?
Ramirez: Yes, we are buying fewer laptops. We no longer need all the extra services that with250 laptops can get very costly. Instead of ordering an $1,800 laptop for a user, which normallylives 12-24 months, now we can just buy an iPad or have the users use their own iPad, andconnect. That makes a big saving for us going forward.Gardner: Juan, were almost out of time. I was curious about what your next steps are. Maybeyoure thinking about private cloud. Maybe youre going to take that high virtualization andutilization rate and extend it into more of a fabric for your applications or even hybrid activities.Any thoughts around where youre going to take your goals around productivity and efﬁciencynext?Ramirez: We have very big plans to move ahead and try to be 99 percent virtualized. Privatecloud is very important. Its high for us. We keep growing, and our needs and demands are huge.So we deﬁnitely have a lot of plans.Coming down the line, were counting big on the upcoming vSphere 5 and SRM 5. That’s goingto help us tremendously. It has some features there that are must-have for us.Again, moving forward, application development and everything will hopefully be based on athin app and ease of use and administration for our users. VMware View is another bigcomponent for us.Gardner: Weve been talking about some successful implementations of virtualization ingeneral, advancing into disaster recovery, and then also enjoying thin app and virtualized desktopbeneﬁts with a view to the cloud in the future.Weve been talking with Juan Ramirez, Senior Director of Information Technology with theTampa Bay Rays. Juan, thanks so much for your time.Ramirez: Thank you very much.Gardner: And thanks to our audience for joining this special podcast coming to you from the2011 VMworld Conference in Las Vegas.Im Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host throughout this series ofVMware-sponsored BrieﬁngsDirect discussions. Thanks again for listening and come back nexttime.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: VMwareTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast from WMworld 2011 Conference in Las Vegas on how amajor league baseball team is streamlining operations with virtual technology.CopyrightInterarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2011. All rights reserved.
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