Fantasy sports website turns to Xsigo I/O switches for 100% uptime

Web 2.0 company Open Sports chose Xsigo Systems director switches for virtual connectivity when building out a network and SAN infrastructure that requires 100% uptime and the ability to scale quickly.

With the need for 100% uptime, an infrastructure scalable enough for rapid and unexpected growth, and the ability to manage its network remotely, the Open Sports Network website turned to I/O director switches from Xsigo Systems Inc. to connect its servers to its SAN and LAN.

Open Sports CIO Ken Mark said he decided to build the online news and fantasy sport site's network on VMware Inc.'s virtualized server platform. Going with 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches would have been cost prohibitive for the type of redundancy and remote management he required. Using InfiniBand, Xsigo directors can connect to servers at 20 Gbps.

Mark discovered Xsigo Systems at a trade show and saw that the converged I/O capabilities offered by the company's products as an alternative to network and storage switches. The Xsigo virtual I/O interfaces appear to applications and operating systems as physical interfaces, eliminating the need for physical HBAs and NICs.

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Open Sports, which handles mostly file storage, has about 50 TB of capacity on NetApp systems. Its IT infrastructure also includes VMware's ESX hypervisors, Mellanox Technologies' InfiniBand cards, a Juniper Networks' MX-series switch and two Xsigo Systems' VP780 I/O directors. Open Sports' Atlanta data center is managed from the company's Deerfield Beach, Fla., office.

Mark created separate virtual switches on each physical server for network, storage and management connectivity. Each virtual switch is configured with dual redundant virtual NICs, for a total of six virtual connections per server -- two for networking, two for storage and two for management. Using two adapter cards per server provides redundancy at the host adapter level. The result was redundant connectivity all the way from the virtual level to the external Ethernet ports on the Xsigo I/O Director VP780s.

The setup allows Open Sports to create virtual servers on the fly to scale for unexpected user traffic. That is crucial for Open Sports because its site traffic will spike at certain times depending on news and game schedules.

"It's critical that your application is 100% reliable while games are going on," said Mike Levy, Open Sports CEO. "If a user in a fantasy league is watching his scoreboard and following games play by play, it's critical that the application stay up. You can lose a lot of customers fast if you go down during those critical periods. I want to be sure that if the audience is twice as high as we expect, we can still run effectively."

And Mark doesn't have to hire someone in Atlanta to replace or move data center cables. "We can manage the Atlanta data center virtual cables from our offices in Florida," he said.

Levy hired his first employee in March 2008 and put the site in beta in August. The site is working now, but the full-featured version will be formally launched next spring in time for the NCAA college basketball Final Four. Open Sports also plans on boosting its capabilities to accommodate the spike in users that are expected during the NFL season next September. "We expect to have millions of users next fall," Levy said.

And next September is when he'll find out if his virtualization game plan scores or fails to reach the goal line.

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