Bayer 04 Leverkusen Fußball GmbH is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bayer AG. The Bayer 04 Leverkusen professional team is the “flagship” of Bayer’s sports teams and has been in the Bundesliga football league without interruption since 1979. Its many successes include winning the UEFA Cup in 1988, the DFB Cup in 1993 and reaching the Champions League final in 2002.
“When you hear the name Bayer 04 Leverkusen, you probably think of exciting evenings of football rather than servers and databases,” says Stefan Aufderbeck, Team Leader IT Infrastructure and Platforms at Bayer 04 Leverkusen. “However, professional football at the top level is no longer imaginable without IT support, and our reliance on data and analytics has never been greater.”
From data analyses in talent scouting and video evaluations of recent matches, to monitoring the medical values of individual players, Bundesliga clubs now use state-of-the-art IT applications to boost team performance and extract the final percent to succeed. Bayer 04 Leverkusen has also recently brought its several hundred terabyte photo and video archive back in-house, which was previously outsourced to an external agency. The IT department must therefore securely and reliably provide a growing volume of data and applications at all times.
The highest availability requirements apply to the IT systems that control stadium operations on match days. More than 30,000 spectators flock to the BayArena in Leverkusen for every home game. “If a system such as the electronic access control system is unavailable for even a few seconds on that day, there is immediate turmoil at the stadium turnstiles,” explains Aufderbeck.
Outages can be caused by more than just technical issues. Football clubs are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals. “As a sports brand, we are permanently in the public eye, which means we are also exposed to significantly more IT attacks than other organizations of our size,” says the IT specialist. “External experts confirmed this time and again when reviewing our security logs.”
Bayer 04 Leverkusen was therefore looking for a solution that would reliably protect the club’s IT infrastructure from data loss due to cyber risks and enable rapid recovery of any IT resources in the event of an outage.
With the support of IT partner, Bechtle, Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s IT department replaced the existing software with Veeam® Backup & Replication™. The Veeam solution ensures the continuous availability of several hundred virtual machines in a VMware vSphere environment. These include business-critical Microsoft applications such as SQL Server, as well as all applications related to match day operations at the BayArena, such as systems for access control, electronic cash registers and cashless payment.
“If one of these critical systems fails on match day, we can make it available again in less than two minutes with the Veeam solution,” reports Aufderbeck. Bayer 04 Leverkusen benefits from the seamless integration of the Veeam solution with the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Nimble (HPE) storage system. Veeam Backup & Replication makes it possible to restore individual application objects or even complete virtual machines directly from storage snapshots on the primary storage. “Whether it’s the box office systems or ticket verification at the entrance, we can respond to any failure scenario within the shortest possible time, ensuring that all visitors experience a smooth visit to the stadium.”
To ensure maximum availability of the IT systems, Bayer 04 Leverkusen implemented a multilevel backup strategy with Veeam. The IT organization uses high-performance HPE Apollo systems as its primary backup target. This solution offers high performance for fast recovery of recent backups. At the same time, the scale-out architecture ensures easy scalability. “As storage needs grow, we can simply add additional capacity without making management more complex,” explains Aufderbeck. From an administrator’s point of view, the different physical storage systems form a single backup target.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen uses a protected object storage repository based on Nutanix technology as capacity storage. Thanks to Veeam’s immutable backup feature, the backed-up data is safe from any tampering. “We can specify that the backups in object storage cannot be changed for a certain period of time,” explains Aufderbeck. “This means our data is also optimally protected against potential ransomware attacks.”
At the same time, Bayer 04 Leverkusen benefits from the integrated deduplication technology. With Veeam, the IT department was able to reduce the storage requirements for its virtual machines by around 50 percent and thus also significantly reduce the costs for backup storage.
For long-term retention, Bayer 04 Leverkusen backs up all data on the Microsoft Azure Blob Storage Archive Tier. Veeam supports the native integration of this costeffective archive storage and automatically moves the backup data from the capacity storage in the company’s own data center to the “cold storage” in the cloud. “Archive Tier Storage in Microsoft Azure gives us an additional layer of backup — and at a very low monthly cost,” says Aufderbeck. “We will most likely never access this data again, but in exceptional situations it will still be available to us years from now.”
Finally, the Veeam solution also allows Bayer 04 Leverkusen to implement a reliable disaster recovery strategy. The IT organization plans to use Veeam Backup & Replication to keep copies of all virtual machines at a third data center location. Business-critical applications will also be replicated to a coldstandby environment in Microsoft Azure in the future. Even if all of the club’s data centers were impacted by a disaster, the most important services could be brought back up in the cloud within a few hours.
Stefan Aufderbeck therefore believes that Bayer 04 Leverkusen is well positioned for the future with Veeam. “The importance of information technology continues to grow in professional football. That’s why it was so important for us to take the protection of our IT systems to a new level with Veeam. At the same time, Veeam helps us get a handle on the growing volumes of data in all areas of the club, and protects us against ransomware attacks.”
Bayer 04 Leverkusen is a leading German football club based in Leverkusen and a whollyowned subsidiary of Fortune 500 pharmaceutical Bayer AG. The club was founded in 1904 by employees of its German parent company as TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen. In 1999, the football department was separated and is now a bespoke entity called Bayer 04 Leverkusen Fußball GmbH. The professional team is one of the most successful clubs in German football and regularly play in Europe’s premier competitions.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen relies on IT applications for many tasks, from scouting young talent to match day operations in the stadium. Any IT failure would be catastrophic for the club and its fans’ experience. The company’s IT organization was therefore looking for a simple and secure way to ensure its data and IT resources were protected at all times.