For baseball fans like me – especially if your favorite team made the playoffs – the October postseason is the most wonderful time of the year (with apologies to Christmas). For the Major League Baseball teams that have made it this far, months of preparation has led up to this point, and now the eyes of the sporting world are upon them. The same scenario exists for Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) CTO Joe Inzerillo and his staff, which is responsible for streaming hundreds of thousands of hours of online video throughout the year, although the October playoff races make this the busiest and most critical time of the year for them.
If you’ve never heard of MLBAM, chances are you’ve watched their video content at one time or another – in fact, if you’re watching live video on the internet, there’s a good chance MLBAM is involved. MLBAM streams more live video than any other sports entity – and any other company. And not just baseball – MLBAM also develops and delivers digital content and applications for sports-oriented companies like ESPN, WWE wrestling and 120 Sports, a new online sports network from Sports Illustrated.
The MLBAM business continues to grow in leaps and bounds on an annual basis. When MLBAM began streaming baseball video online in 2002, it was only on the PC, but since that time, demand has expanded to the point that fans can now watch on more than 400 devices, making MLB.TV the number one sports streaming service in the world. At the same time, MLBAM’s At Bat mobile app is the highest-grossing sports app ever, helping generate over $800 million annually in revenue (as others have estimated).
Additionally, MLBAM’s Chelsea Market headquarters in New York City is the location of their Transmission Operations Center, which brings in and sends out the video and audio feeds from the games being played around the country. This location is also where instant replay calls are reviewed by a staff of MLB umpires, on a rotation that includes their normal duties on baseball diamonds around the country at major league parks.
The MLBAM success story is one that has prompted Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig to say about MLBAM, “I think it’s not only one of the great stories in American sports business in the past 12 years, but one of the great stories in American business.” Others have called MLBAM New York’s top tech startup of the past decade.
At the heart of all of this is MLBAM’s six data centers around the country, which are powered by Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS). Cisco UCS converges virtualization, network access, storage access and computing power into a centralized architecture for data centers. With all the data being generated – 15 petabytes this year and possibly up to 25 petabytes next year, according to Inzerillo – MLBAM requires the highest performing data centers available to accommodate this growing demand.
MLBAM’s ability to provide video as a service to other companies as a provider is an example of how Cisco is helping 33,000 other businesses transform their own operations. MLBAM is a perfect example of this business transformation, going from streaming 19,000 hours of live video in 2009 to 400,000 in 2014.
During a recent press event in the MLBAM headquarters in New York, Inzerillo stated, “UCS has been one of the most important aspects for us in terms of vast simplification and eliminating friction to increase our operation velocity. Automation, and software driven infrastructure are replacing manual labor for us and that’s the only way to achieve the scale and velocity we require. In that regard, UCS has become a critical part of how we do business.”
Inzerillo added, “over the past three years we’ve increasingly began to deploy applications in a virtualized environment and UCS has been instrumental to that transition; 400,000 hours of streaming are streamed off of Cisco UCS servers today.”
“We’re definitely two to three times more efficient when it comes to building data centers with UCS,” Inzerillo told a group of Canadian reporters at a similar event in Toronto, adding he likes the “elasticity” of UCS. UCS cuts provisioning times (by 84 per cent), cabling (77 per cent), management costs (61 per cent) and power and cooling costs (54 per cent).
It’s clear more exciting times and growth is on the horizon for the MLBAM team, but unlike the baseball season, the momentum doesn’t stop after the last October pitch is thrown.