FC Internazionale Milano is one of the most popular clubs, playing one of the most popular sports in the world. As the football club’s leadership looked to the future they sought new ways to leverage data to improve player performance, content management, and community engagement. To accomplish this task, Inter leadership turned to Lenovo to revamp the club’s entire technological infrastructure. As part of the ongoing Lenovo Tech @ Heart Series, club leadership sat down to talk about the ways Lenovo technology made it possible to achieve their goals.
A Growing Global Game
FIFA estimates the global audience for football (or ‘soccer’ to US fans) at around 3.5 billion people, encompassing about half the planet’s population. And as one of the most popular teams in the sport, Inter’s fanbase and potential reach are higher than ever. As with any organization, growth brings new and bigger challenges. For Inter, those challenges took the form of millions of data points to manage, thousands of hours of content, and multiple sources of player data to track and understand.
Inter’s Chief Operating Officer, Mark Van Huuksloot, explains: “We’ve been enhancing our technological capabilities in recent years, not just to provide fans with more ways to interact with the game, but also to help players analyze and enhance their performance. Both of these activities generate massive amounts of data. We have 60 million GPS data points relating to player performance from the last two football seasons alone. So, ensuring that we have a highly performant, scalable, and reliable infrastructure at the heart of our activities is critical for driving innovation and transforming data into timely insights.”
Additionally, the shifting social and economic landscape of a post-COVID-19 world meant that fans were hungry for new ways to engage with the team.
Roberto Monzani, Media House Director at Inter, comments, “In recent decades, the number of fans engaging with their favorite football teams online and via their mobile devices has skyrocketed. To ensure that we are providing fans with personalized content at the right time via their preferred touchpoint is essential to inspiring fan loyalty and growing our supporter base. And when Italy and many other countries went into national lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many football matches canceled, stepping up digital fan engagement became our main focus.”
“In the past, the only touch point we had with our fans was at the stadium,” Van Huuksloot says. “What we do now is much more commitment to involve them before the match, during the match, and after the match, with statistics, with data, with all kinds of things we can share with them. So fans don’t only live the 90 minutes of the match, but they actually can follow Inter 24 hours a day.”
A System Under Strain
All of this new demand was putting increased strain on Inter’s previous systems. Before turning to Lenovo, the team relied on a traditional three-tier IT architecture to manage day-to-day operations. While the system kept their club running smoothly, the system was also complex, costly and couldn’t provide the necessary opportunities for innovation.
With more ambitious goals in sight for their digital transformation, Inter needed to reimagine their core infrastructure, and Lenovo servers and PC technology provided the necessary tools to do just that.
A Reimagined Infrastructure
With Inter as collaborators, Lenovo rebuilt the club’s tech infrastructure from the ground up to fit the team’s specific needs, incorporating Lenovo technology into every aspect of the system.
To track player performance, Inter takes data from many sources including player wearables, compiling over 600 terabytes of data each season just for sports analysis. To help handle that task, Lenovo worked with Inter to create an entirely software-defined environment built on Nutanix AHV and VMware VSphere.
The environment is supported by a disaster recovery and backup environment built on Lenovo ThinkSystem DM7000H Unified Hybrid Storage to provide peace of mind and strengthen business continuity.
For Inter Media House, the team responsible for creating experiences to engage fans and enhance fan relationships with the club through inspirational content, Lenovo also employed ThinkSystem DM7000h storage arrays to handle the 80+ terabytes of media content produced per year, and a newly digitized archive of over 1 million pictures and 60,000+ hours of video now easily searchable through tags and metadata.
Now as the demand for online content grows, Inter can continue to create innovative fan engagement opportunities with confidence that their photo and video data is secure and accessible.
“Lenovo went the extra mile to understand our unique needs and design a solution that delivers on performance, reliability, and, crucially, scalability,” says Van Huuksloot. “Knowing that Lenovo is willing to support us every step of the way as we evolve our capabilities gives us confidence that we will maintain our leading position in football for years to come.”
A Cooperative Collaboration
But Lenovo didn’t stop at overhauling Inter’s infrastructure. Lenovo continued to support the business operations of the club with leading device.
“With the latest generation Lenovo ThinkPad laptops, everyone in our organization, from our sports analysts to our finance department, benefit from increased performance,” comments Van Huuksloot. “And with Lenovo ThinkSmart Hubs and Lenovo ThinkVision monitors in our meeting rooms, employees in the office can quickly and easily connect with colleagues out on the pitch or in training facilities with high-quality conference call capabilities.”
A Partnership for the Future
After only a short time, the club is already seeing measurable improvements in productivity and efficiency thanks to its upgraded environment, starting with data processing.
“On average, data processing performance has increased by 20%,” Van Huuksloot says, “performance improvements at such a scale will dramatically increase the amount of data we can analyze.”
And fan engagement is continuing to pay off, according to Monzani.
“We recently ran a campaign focused on bringing more women to football, and we’re pleased to see that we successfully increased our female fan base as a result of this digital campaign,” says Monzani. “With Lenovo technology underpinning our digital engagement activities, we are much better equipped to develop innovative digital experiences”
With one successful collaboration already underway, Lenovo and Inter have chosen to grow their relationship even more, as Lenovo has supported Inter as back-of-shirt partner from the 21/22 season.
“Lenovo joined us as a jersey partner at a very exciting time for Inter just as we launched our new club emblem,” says Van Huuksloot. “We’re pleased that Lenovo will be a part of this historic moment and we’re proud to showcase our close partnership with an internationally recognized technology leader. We’re looking forward to building on our partnership with Lenovo as we explore new ways to enhance the fan experience and improve player performance with next-generation technologies.”
“It’s a fantastic relationship” says Van Huuksloot. “Lenovo is at the heart of Inter.”