IT: Helping the Broncos Get to The Super Bowl - Plus Game Day Tech

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In September’s opening game, and in each game during the regular season, Manning had to use his knowledge of the game and limited information on each team they faced. But this time, he’ll have months of data—from both the Broncos and the Seahawks—to help him plan.

Manning will look to exploit gaps and holes in the Seahawks’ defense, while simultaneously exploiting the Broncos’ strengths. And all in real time, on the biggest stage in live sports, with success and failure immediately recognized on execution.

As With The Players, So With IT
Before Manning ever runs out onto the MetLife Stadium field in East Rutherford, NJ, the Broncos’ dedicated IT staff will have collected, stored, assimilated, managed, protected and delivered terabytes of data to Manning, his teammates, and the coaching staff.

The data covers each game the Seahawks have played, each play, both offensive and defensive, and each player.

In the modern era, no team can hope to get to the Super Bowl without peak performance from its IT department. Teams are mid-size businesses with enterprise-level IT needs.

The Broncos IT staff manages hundreds of terabytes of data. Not only do they collect and manage all of the games, plays and players for the Broncos themselves, but with the Super Bowl, there’s double the amount of data: The team has a single opponent, which they need to know as well as they know themselves.

Gone are the days when your previous games and those of your opponents were shipped in as film.

Today, videos of games are delivered to the Broncos digitally, with multiple camera angles and shots. All this data needs cataloging, storing and delivering to players and coaches.

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Gone are the days of arriving at the practice facility early or staying late in order to use the film room.

Today, the Broncos’ IT Department issues an Apple iPad to each player and coach—it was one of the first teams to do so. Video of the Broncos’ game and practice, as well as all the Seahawks’ games for the entire season, are available to every player and coach . Manning can now watch 24 hours a day: from the practice facility, the stadium, or his own home.

Gone are the days when the photocopier was the most used piece of equipment in the building. The playbook is no longer delivered as a massive tome that must to be recopied each time there’s a tweak.

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Today, all the Bronco’s players and coaches receive the playbook on their iPads: Changes can be made instantly. The coaches know that each player always has instant access to the most recent version.

Gone are the days of rooms full of row upon row of film canisters.

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Today, the hundreds of terabytes of game video and analysis are stored on NetApp servers. Equipment that must perform at peak level, providing fast access to the massive amounts of data—not just storing it.

Hours of video must be stored, organized, and delivered in time for the team and coaches to prepare for the big game. A delay or loss of data could be disastrous.

Downtime is unacceptable. Data loss would be an irrecoverable tragedy.

The Broncos’ success on the field as a team is a direct result of the success of their IT team and the partners they rely on.

On game day, the Broncos organization will learn if their preparation has paid off. They, along with the Seahawks, will deliver a live performance in front of more than 82,000 fans in MetLife Stadium, plus 100 million around the world.

No Rest For The Rest Of The Year
Even in the off-season, the IT department is busy.

There’s a backlog of old video that must be digitized, captured and made available to players, coaches, fans and the media.

There are trades to be negotiated, which often call for fast and efficient delivery of video and other data: The coaches and front office need to quickly evaluate and respond to a trade before it slips away.

The draft process is a season in itself, with dozens of prospects to sift through, along with video of their college games, workouts and other information. On draft day, with only minutes to make a decision, the team can’t afford an IT failure.

The Bottom Line
The financial and athletic success of the Denver Broncos is totally dependent on its IT staff’s ability to put the right information into the right hands at the right moment.

Like Peyton Manning reading a defense at the line of scrimmage, the IT staff must do its work within tight time constraints. IT’s success and failure, like Manning’s, is instantly recognizable.

They are the teams’ digital backbone. And they couldn’t do it without fast, reliable, manageable storage.

-Forbes 


TECH ON GAME DAY

The MetLife stadium in New York boasts four 30x 118 foot HD video screen, a 360°ribbon board, 2,100 HD monitors, 20 HD pylons, 1,000 point of sales cash registers, and free Wi-Fi with over 900 access points. Teams of engineers and network engineers have been working on strengthening networks to meet the demands for New York and New Jersey.

However, with all of this state of the art technology, the NFL is restricting live streaming video of the game to free-up bandwidth for social media sharing and uploads. With seats for 80,000 people, the demands for data at MetLife Stadium will be high. Where digital cameras once flashed throughout the stadium, are now smartphones and other mobile devices. Digital cameras allowed for fans to print and upload later. Now, smartphones allow fans to upload and share instantly; that means more photo uploads, texts sent, and videos shared than any other regular season game. 

Verizon Wireless, and AT&T, who have the biggest presence at MetLife Stadium, have been working to meet the demands of the Super Bowl. Mike Maus, Assistant VP of network services at AT&T said, “For the last year or so we’ve been working on our pre-game and game day network playbook in an effort to provide the best possible wireless experience for our customers. In anticipation of the huge volume of data and voice usage expected [for the Super Bowl], we’ve built a new state of the art antenna system inside the stadium, we’re rolling in portable cell sites both at the stadium, and to support the tailgate areas, and we’ve augmented coverage in New York City to support the activities there.”

Michelle White, the head of network operations and engineering in the New York metropolitan region for Verizon Wireless said, "Stadiums have become billboards for our service." The high usage of data in a highly concentrated space tests a carrier’s ability to meet demands of their users. With fierce competition between Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, all the big players have planned and strategized as people will be curious to see if each can meet to needs and perform during the Super Bowl. In past games, mobile users have not been able to even place phone calls or send texts, let alone upload images. With the nation watching, each provider knows the importance of delivering. 

Aside from the sheer volume of fan uploads and data usage, massive concrete walls and the 80,000 fans, who are made up of more than 50% water, create obstacles for data. “The two things that signals have the most trouble traveling through are concrete and water — and the water is not moving,” NFL Chief Information Officer Michelle McKenna-Doyle said. However, with preparations over the last year, McKenna-Doyle and her team are confident that technology will meet demands and perform. “Our hope is that this is the most connected live event in sports history,” McKenna-Doyle said during an interview.

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Regardless of technology performance at MetLife, we will all be cheering the Broncos on towards a victory. If you’re not at the stadium this year, don’t feel bad. You’ll at least be warm, won’t risk suffering a power outage, and you won’t have any problem uploading your fan pics to social media. Go Broncos! 

Posted on January 31, 2014 .