BBM Canada (Sondages BBM in Québec) is a not-for-profit, member-owned tripartite industry organization. Operating since 1944, BBM provides broadcast measurement and consumer behavior data, as well as industry-leading intelligence, to broadcasters, advertisers, and agencies. Sophisticated data tracking and measurement technologies and services gather relevant information on audience behaviors during and after broadcasts to give members business-critical insights into the impacts of broadcast content and consumer behaviors. (Source:

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When data is currency, storage matters—a lot. BBM Canada Chief Information Officer Tom Saint explains: “Storage is the cornerstone of the IT infrastructure we rely on to collect, analyze, and distribute television and radio ratings data to our members in the broadcast industry. That ratings data, because it’s used to determine the value of advertising time, serves as their currency. With member revenues directly linked to the quality and timeliness of our data, we’ve organized both our business and IT infrastructure to optimize reliability, responsiveness, and efficiency.”

Ed Grassie, national director of Information Technology at BBM Canada, says, “On the infrastructure side, that has meant evolving from a traditional physical-server infrastructure with direct-attached storage to a more reliable and efficient shared IT infrastructure with virtualized servers and storage. Most recently, we’ve transitioned that shared infrastructure to a private cloud that gives us unprecedented agility in delivering IT infrastructure and application services to our developers and business users.

“Choosing the right storage platform was critical to enabling our cloud infrastructure. Although when we began this journey we could not have anticipated specific requirements, we did recognize the need to deploy a highly reliable, expandable, and efficient architecture that could grow and evolve with our business and IT infrastructure.”

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Five years ago, the BBM Canada IT team engaged Root Cellar Technologies, a participant in the NetApp partner program and a premier solutions provider for businesses evolving to private cloud computing, to help BBM transition from a siloed server and storage environment to a shared IT infrastructure. Considering BBM business and technical requirements, Root Cellar engineers designed a solution built on a VMware® virtualization platform running on IBM BladeCenter technology with centralized NetApp storage.

Ken Stewart, Root Cellar Technologies senior partner and co-owner, explains the decision to go with NetApp: “At the time, BBM’s goal was to address business continuity and disaster recovery objectives by enabling seamless failover between reciprocal data centers in Toronto, Ontario, and Richmond, British Columbia. NetApp offered an essential combination of replication functionality and efficiency. Implementing a dual-use DR solution helped BBM protect critical real-time ratings data while allowing them to leverage DR site resources for development and testing of custom processing and analytics software. Our experience has also shown NetApp to be a best-of-breed storage solution for virtual-server environments built on VMware and IBM BladeCenter platforms. NetApp delivers sophisticated functionality in an extremely easy-to-administer package.”

“Root Cellar played a critical role in helping us address business needs with innovative technologies,” adds Grassie. “Using tools like NetApp Snapshot point-in-time-copy technology and NetApp FlexClone software for data volume and set replication, for example, we’re able to achieve time and space economies that are simply not possible with other storage.”

NetApp provides storage to the VMware environment that supports BBM’s proprietary Portable People Meter (PPM) and diary processing systems; Windows Server® 2008/2008 R2 environments running Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008, a 335-user Microsoft SharePoint® Server 2010 deployment, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, and Microsoft Team Foundation Server 2007/2010; Linux® based Oracle® Database 10g systems; MySQL databases that support three BBM call centers; and a survey processor application that is typically launched from one of 25 VMware View virtual desktops.

Today, more than 98% of BBM’s data resides on NetApp storage, and the BBM application environment is totally virtualized. Standardizing on NetApp enabled BBM Canada to do a one-time installation of a data infrastructure that delivers nondisruptive expandability and flexibility for growth and change. The NetApp solution that originally helped BBM achieve virtual-storage benefits today supports an efficient virtual infrastructure that allows delivery of enhanced IT services on demand via a private cloud. Templates and automated processes streamline access to both infrastructure services—for example, virtual servers and capacity to BBM software development and test engineers—and software services such as SharePoint workflow applications and business analytics accessed by business and operations teams.

Solution Components

NetApp Products
NetApp FAS3160 and FAS3020 systems
NetApp Flash Cache modules
NetApp OnCommand software, including Operations Manager, Protection Manager, and SnapManager® for Virtual Infrastructure with NetApp FlexClone® software and Virtual Storage Console
NetApp SnapVault® software
NetApp deduplication and thin provisioning technologies


VMware vSphere™ 4, View 4.6
vCenter™ CapacityIQ
Red Hat and Ubuntu Linux
Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Team Foundation Server 2007/2010
Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, SharePoint Server 2010
Oracle Database 10g
IBM BladeCenter Model H Chassis with HS22 Blade Servers
Cisco Nexus® 5000 Series Switches

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  • Deliver information as a service (IaaS) to developers to accelerate the dev/test process
  • Slash provisioning from 2 weeks to 15 minutes
  • Gain business speed and agility
  • Attain >70% storage utilization
  • Use 5x less storage
  • Avoid spending $1M on a new data center
  • Save money with dual-use disaster recovery (DR)
  • Enable software-as-a-service (SaaS) model for external analytics and business intelligence (BI) services delivery

Must-see IT efficiencies

Each day, BBM uses electronic measuring systems to capture data from tens of thousands of households. Data is analyzed overnight with next-day delivery to more than 1,000 members in more than 100 radio and television markets. BBM requires processing and space efficiencies to maximize resource utilization, cost-effectively manage ever-larger volumes of survey and meter data, and conduct increasingly sophisticated broadcast measurements and analyses. NetApp storage efficiency helps BBM deliver high-quality, comprehensive intelligence at the lowest possible cost. Ed Grassie offers some examples:

  • Performance efficiency. NetApp Flash Cache intelligent caching helps BBM improve storage efficiency and reduce costs while enhancing performance of mission-critical Oracle applications.
  • Storage savings. “With NetApp deduplication technology, we use 75% less capacity for VMware VMDKs, 70% less for production user shares, and 55% less for SQL Server and Oracle volumes. Without NetApp deduplication and thin provisioning, we’d need to buy at least five times more storage.

    “We also make better use of capacity, running consistently above 70% utilization. Before implementing this infrastructure, we expected to double the size of our primary data center. Instead, we avoided spending $1M, as well as the attendant pain and frustration—that’s priceless.”
  • Administrative savings. BBM requires just 0.13 full-time employee to manage a NetApp storage footprint of 80TB.

Can’t-miss TV and radio ratings

Since deploying the private cloud on NetApp, BBM has experienced no data loss or downtime. “With customers critically reliant on our rating information products,” Grassie says, “we simply cannot lose data or the ability to collect and process it. This infrastructure ensures that we can continually capture survey and meter data and consistently meet customer SLAs for dataset delivery, even in the event of a disaster at our main data center. Critical systems—such as our PPM and diary applications that collect survey data, and the SharePoint system that is a critical workflow tool for our operations group—are routinely replicated to the DR site and can be brought online there within 15 minutes. We know it works, because we use the same technologies to replicate production systems for dev/test processes that are all done at the DR site.”

Stay tuned for more ratings data more ways

Building the private cloud infrastructure on a NetApp storage foundation helps BBM deliver functionality and rapid business value amid fast-changing markets, customer requirements, applications, and technology stacks. Tom Saint elaborates, “Because the ways in which people consume media change rapidly—personal video recorders and Internet TV channels, for example, have altered both when and how audiences consume programming—we have to be able to quickly expand or modify how we collect, process, and deliver data.”

Grassie explains how the private cloud on NetApp helps BBM stay agile:

  • Rapid provisioning. “In the past, every new request meant a 2-week process of setting up a new server. Now we provision servers and storage in less than 15 minutes.”
  • Scalability. Nondisruptive storage scalability means that BBM can seamlessly accommodate an expanding virtual-server footprint and 60% year-over-year data growth.
  • Manageability. BBM uses NetApp OnCommand™ Protection Manager and Virtual Storage Console, VMware CapacityIQ, and other orchestration tools to track usage and do showbacks, anticipate future requirements, automate provisioning, and deliver cloud infrastructure on demand. NetApp partnerships with leading platform, virtualization, and networking vendors enhance technology integration and help BBM more quickly leverage new functionality.

Saint summarizes, “The cloud gives us agility to respond more quickly and to deliver data and application services with granularity suited to individual users and members. We may, for example, choose to extend in-house functionality to external clients. Internal teams are taking advantage of data cubes for advanced business intelligence, and, if our customers find value in that capability, we can deliver it to them via an efficient SaaS model. We now have tremendous flexibility to address requests from our users, whether they’re internal product developers, a large broadcaster that imports our data into corporate SAS-based analytics systems, a small-market radio station requesting only top-10 show listings, or a customer producing their own analytics for BBM Canada clients.

“The landscape changes quickly in our business. With a cloud-based offering built on NetApp storage, we’re able to change just as quickly. Developing new products, making business decisions, or addressing customer requests—in all cases we’re responding faster and more dynamically than ever before.”

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