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Sports Illustrated scores with clustered storage

At this Sunday's Super Bowl, Sports Illustrated is using a clustered storage system to store and retrieve the 16,000 digital photos to be taken during the game.

At this Sunday's Super Bowl showdown between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, 12 Sports Illustrated photographers, using three digital cameras each, plan to shoot 16,000 digital photos during the action-packed game. This translates to more than two pictures for each second of play. Pretty snappy!

To capture all this data, Sports Illustrated has added a new element of speed: a 6.75 terabytes Isilon IQ clustered storage system to store and retrieve the digital photos.

This will be Sports Illustrated's first Super Bowl using the Isilon IQ, a system designed specifically for digital content. The IQ system combines modular hardware with a distributed file system that eliminates islands of storage by placing data in one shared pool.

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The magazine used the Isilon product this past summer at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, and has been pushing its digital pics onto the system ever since.

Before implementing the Isilon IQ, Sports Illustrated used a SAN at bigger events such as the Super Bowl and DAS at smaller events like college basketball games. But the performance was slow and the team consistently ran into bottleneck problems.

"We would have 25 people accessing the same server," said Phil Jache, Sports Illustrated's deputy director of technology. "With Isilon, we can cluster three servers and add another if we need it."

This is only the second Super Bowl where Sports Illustrated has used exclusively digital cameras. Jache said that not only is the quality of digital photos better than film, but the "switch to digital will save the magazine nearly $2 million this year."

After the photographers take their pictures, they hand digital flash cards containing the images off to runners, who bring them to the magazine's editing trailer. There, photo editors load the images onto the Isilon IQ cluster, and using a network of laptops, they look at, sort and prepare the images for publication.

The edited images are transferred to New York City on Monday morning, and by Monday night the magazine goes to press.

"Our goal at big events like the Super Bowl is to be fast and efficient and get out of there," said Jache. "We're done with all our work an hour and 20 minutes after the game."

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