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Bolton Wanderers achieves virtual success

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For Premier League football teams, how their IT performs within the 90 minutes of a game is almost as important to club finances as what happens on the pitch.

With Bolton Wanderers FC's (BWFC's) turnover increasing 16 per cent to £59.1m last year, according to Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finance, keeping IT failures to a minimum is critical.

So when the club decided to revamp its systems to improve risk management, IT infrastructure specialist ANS Group was chosen to deploy virtualisation and disaster-recovery systems in a multi-year deal.

BWFC hopes the new infrastructure will ensure its IT systems are able to withstand the intense pressure that applications are subjected to on match days, especially the 90-minute window when Wanderers are on the pitch. The ability to recover quickly in the event of problems is also a key factor in BWFC's risk-management plans.

"ANS was brought in after we put out a tender, and now will be our main virtual infrastructure partner. There are cost savings to be had with virtualisation, but the primary reason was to enhance our risk-management strategy," said Dave Atkinson, BWFC's IT director.

Atkinson said that Bolton runs its own datacentre, but like other Premier League clubs, its web site is hosted by a third party.

"We'll be using Dell's EqualLogic solution for disaster recovery, since this has the ability to replicate business data to a separate site straight out of the box, making it easy to put our business-critical functions on the SAN [storage area network] and replicate to another location," he said.

BWFC has a Cisco network infrastructure with more than 20 switches, but is using Dell hardware for the virtualised systems.

"We've never had any problems with Dell," said Atkinson. "We're using VMware for running virtual machines, and we’ve consolidated around 15 servers. This is real business critical infrastructure, not just test and development systems."

Atkinson said the biggest problem around managing virtual infrastructure is the threat of virtual server sprawl, but that if you consider each virtual server as a physical piece of kit, it is easier to manage any uncontrolled growth.

Atkinson sees BWFC moving to a virtualised infrastructure in a phased manner, with more systems being migrated in the future. BWFC will also be looking at migrating IT services onto a cloud-computing platform.

"That’s something we’ve already touched on because we’re currently using software-as-a-service applications Mimecast for unified email management and ScanSafe for web security," said Atkinson.
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Home>World news>Bolton Wanderers achieves virtual success
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