Football field with green grass and clouds

Switch to Azure: On the way to being a cloud champion

How a football club stays on the ball and advances new business models when digitalizing through cloud services

March 11 2022Jonas Niessen

Successfully designing digitalization in football

Webshop, ticketing or data analysis from the last game: digitalization found its way into football quite some time ago. Our client, a longstanding German club in the Bundesliga, also wants to utilize the digital solutions to enthuse fans and members with new business models. However, its on-prem infrastructure had so far thwarted this endeavor. We helped the club switch to Microsoft Azure which gave its IT team more time for value-enhancing tasks.

Digital transformation: Gaining playing ability

Man uses tablet in a stadium

These days, football clubs are professional companies which, in addition to the sport, also focus on financial success. It's about TV viewing rights, transfer fees for players and merchandising, i.e. sales to fans in the online store. In addition to the major clubs, some of which are listed on the stock exchange, the Bundesliga also has many clubs with medium-sized structures. As in the case of our client, who employs a total of 150 staff. It's at the medium-sized clubs, however, where the size of the IT team tends to be more manageable. These smaller IT teams often find it hard to set up the required cloud competences to consistently adapt to innovations in the cloud.

In order to advance the digital transformation, those responsible in the club redefined its IT strategy a year ago. It quickly became clear what journey it should take: As a business enabler, IT should support the club to give the business more inspiration beyond the subject of sport – gaining it higher sales. What's particularly important for the club: expansion of the digital community and the development of competitive gaming and streaming technologies for e-sport.

The challenge: Too little time for innovation

The club achieves its goals with flexible and rapidly scalable cloud services. But before it was able to benefit from all the advantages of the cloud, it needed to master one or two more challenges. The IT operation has until then been performed on an on-prem infrastructure in a rented computing center. The IT team was primarily involved in looking after the Microsoft system landscape and taking on the patch management for Microsoft Windows server or regular upgrades for Microsoft SQL Server. These are time-consuming activities that defined the IT employees' everyday work and hardly brought any added value to the club.

They were looking for a cloud service that made these kind of activities redundant. This is where our experts came in. In order to find the right cloud solution, our experts analyzed the available structure with the help of T-Systems Cloud Assessment. They then set up a suitable cloud strategy in conjunction with the club and established a cloud journey to suit the requirements.

IT becomes a business enabler

Microsoft Azure Cloud became the new chosen cloud platform. There were several reasons for this. The club had already been using Microsoft solutions for some time, including the software as a service (SaaS) Microsoft 365. Because of the positive experiences it has gained in the past, the club feels very at home in the Microsoft world. During this time, the club IT admins also gained extensive knowledge of Microsoft, which they can use with Azure.

We were on hand during the migration to Microsoft Azure and supported the club with various services and our long-standing cloud skills. We gave strategic advice and highlighted how the IT department can play an important role in the business strategy as a business enabler during the changeover into the cloud. To do this, we analyzed all the club's workloads and, based on the results, set up corresponding business cases in Azure. We scanned the infrastructure in detail and established the perfect way into the cloud. In so doing, we successfully developed migration paths depending on the use case to move both Windows servers and database systems (MS SQL Server) into the Microsoft Azure Cloud following best practice. This included, among others, a VM replication and a database migration. This means Windows server rehosting and SQL server rehosting in Microsoft Azure.

Important advantages of the cloud migration

Switching to the Microsoft Azure-based infrastructure as a service model (IaaS) has significantly reduced the operational costs for the IT team – and this from the first day in the public cloud. As part of our Managed Cloud Services for Microsoft Azure, we take on many tasks that the club's IT department would previously have dealt with. This frees the staff up from handling laborious infrastructure and operational tasks. The IT staff have much more time and freedom to concentrate on strategic and value-enhancing tasks as well as innovating.

Since the switch to Microsoft Azure, things have been running more smoothly for the IT department: as part of our managed services, we input patches and upgrades in a highly automated way, and guarantee infrastructure for compliance and security. This allows the club to replicate new requirements arising from digital business models much more quickly than before. For example, to enable databased digital advertising in e-sport or to set up new digital channels for merchandising.

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About the author

Jonas Niessen

Director, Cloud Adoption Services, T-Systems International GmbH

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