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Isilon Scores Super Bowl Storage

When Super Bowl XXXIX kicks off Sunday, Isilon Systems will have a front-row seat, figuratively speaking. As the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles meet on the field, Sports Illustrated will use Isilon's IQ clustered file system as storage central for over 16,000 digital photos (see Sports Illustrated Picks Isilon).

The choice highlights the growing popularity of clustered NAS in digital content applications -- as well as Isilon's intent to prove its stake is firmly planted in this vertical ground.

Here's the game plan: Isilon's IQ, which allows data volumes to span multiple physical devices while maintaining a single namespace, will be set up in Sports Illustrated's on-site mobile editing trailer in Jacksonville, Fla. Twelve of the magazine's photographers will take at least two digital photos per second during the game. Runners will take the photos on disk to the trailer, where they'll be stored on a three-node, 6.75-Tbyte Isilon IQ cluster. A network of laptop-equipped editors, working on a Gigabit Ethernet LAN, will then sort through them and send the best ones to key remote sites, such as the pub's New York headquarters.

It's a considerably streamlined "work flow" for capturing images, compared with what Sports Illustrated was doing before. Last year, for instance, the staff struggled with traditional film and a mishmash of direct-attached storage, including gear from the magazine's chief IT supplier, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), to get the job done. "We'd spend about $1 million on film and another million on processing," says Phil Jache, deputy directory of technology for Sports Illustrated. IT even lugged some of its storage gear into the field, with dismal results.

The publication picked Isilon from a range of solutions, including ones from HP, before it took to the field to photo the 2004 Olympics this fall in Athens and the Orange Bowl football game in Miami in January. And Jache says the NAS setup has saved $2 million in film and processing, while costing "less than 10 percent" of that figure in capital outlay. (According to Isilon, a basic three-node IQ system costs roughly $50,000, with all the bells and whistles.)

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