Super Bowl IT

What’s it like to be the CIO for the Super Bowl? For my non-American readers, the Super Bowl is the World Cup of American Football.

Two years ago, the CIO of Ford Field in Detroit hosted a Nortel customer seminar, a couple of weeks after the 40th Super Bowl was held at his stadium (Pittsburg Steelers 21, Seattle Seahawks 10, Rolling Stones at half time, 68000 fans). When I was there, they were just ‘erasing’ the Steeler logo in the end zone.

We asked him to tell us how he and his small IT staff coped with the deluge of attention and operational challenges. It was certainly not business as usual!

First came the networks (not our type) but of the TV variety- this came in the form of 25 dual-width trucks who laid out some 500 cables though out the facility. And that was just for ABC.

Next came the US Homeland Security Department to oversee every aspect of the security, both during the preparation phase and on game night. The security perimeter had to be moved out 300 feet- Ethernet switches installed (in Kmart rubber tubs to keep them dry) for the new box office, and special AP enclosures with external antennas built for WiFi-equipped ticket takers.

An additional temporary floor was added for some 800 journalists. 1170 new phone lines had to be installed, including a dedicated line for Condalesa Rice. The Associated Press trailer alone had an Ethernet network and processed some 20,000 mega-pixel images during the event.

Planning started 18 months ahead of the event, serious implementation started 3 weeks before the event, and most everything was gone a day after the Super Bowl, including a couple of the stadium’s own Ethernet Switches!

Bullet-proof reliability, high performance and network agility were all table stakes to pull off such an event without a hitch. All for 4 hours of entertainment for something like 100 million viewers!

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