Liverpool Football Club has moved almost all of its IT operations to the cloud, mostly to cloud storage in Wasabi, with some data held in Amazon Web Services (AWS).
The move – which was influenced by changes to working practices during the pandemic – has allowed it to save an estimated 15% of staff time previously spent accessing data, as well as speed up production and delivery of a video-heavy content portfolio.
Wasabi was well-suited to the club’s workloads because of its media focus, and also the fact it doesn’t charge for data egress, which often hits cloud storage users quite unexpectedly.
Liverpool employs up to 800 people, including temporary matchday staff, but has 150 IT users. Having said that, the bulk of IT service delivery is to large numbers of subscribers via streaming and other media, in so-called OTT services such as LFC TV, which offers 24/7 programming and on-demand footage, plus ticketing and memberships.
Now, almost all data at the club – which runs to hundreds of TB – is held in the cloud, mostly in Wasabi, and it is looking to do more in video post-production here. For some static data, and in particular some data warehousing capacity and functionality, the club uses AWS.
Previously, everything ran from on-site infrastructure with a storage array and 24 HDDs as capacity. The key limitation, said Drew Crisp, Liverpool Football Club’s senior vice-president for digital, was that content took too long to access, was difficult to access remotely, suffered performance issues and wasn’t suited to delivering video media.
“We couldn’t afford to have people coming into the office to download large media files to work on,” he said. “The key issues were speed and access. Now we’re talking about minutes at the most to access data. We had lots of workarounds and it was very clunky. We want to move to doing more in Wasabi, such as post-production work on media. Wasabi is very clear about what volume and capacity costs, and allows for rapid access to large amounts of media data.”
Was Crisp concerned at the prospect of putting lots of the club’s data in the cloud? After all, cloud storage can offer benefits in terms of cost and flexibility, but the potential for costs to run out of control is also well documented. “We weren’t concerned about the transition to the cloud, but I was concerned to make sure costs don’t get out of control,” he said. “It’s true that it is easy to use, so it’s also very easy for new environments to spring up.”
What controls are in place? “It’s down to discipline and people being sure they have the budget to do what they want,” said Crisp. “People have to know what they can spend and be incentivised to stay within that.”
A big benefit of Wasabi is that it doesn’t charge for data uploads or egress. Instead, it charges for capacity used.
“That’s a big thing for us, given it’s a media use case that’s all about delivering data,” he said.
So, what have been the benefits in measurable terms? “It hasn’t been about ‘spending x to get y’,” said Crisp. “But we could say that we’ve probably saved 10% to 15% per person in terms of time spent accessing data in the archive.”
In terms of more general benefits, he highlighted the flexibility it brings to work. “We’ve got far more flexibility in where people need to be to access footage, what they can do with it and the speed at which they can operate,” he said.
“And just being able to work with a vendor that is good at what they do and has deep expertise, so when, for example, my vice-president of media needs to talk in-depth about something, they can.”