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IT is a team sport, and with Super Bowl XLIX right around the corner, Danielle Grassi of NetApp corporate communications spoke with Aaron Amendolia, Senior Director of IT Services at the NFL, about how his team gets ready to meet the data storage needs for one of the most-watched events in the world.


How does your team get ready for the Super Bowl?

We plan for the Super Bowl year round, but it takes the IT team about 30 days to prepare everything that has to be deployed to the Super Bowl site. In early December we start physically building the infrastructure and we ship it to the location of the Super Bowl by the first of January.


How many data centers are supporting Super Bowl XLIX?

For Super Bowls in the past we used three temporary data centers, but this year we have the option of consolidating due to the close proximity of the league hotel to the media center. So at a minimum we’ll have two temporary data centers in Phoenix. For example, we will have a data center downtown at the league hotel and a mobile data center in a trailer at the stadium. Our primary NFL data centers are located at our league headquarters in New York and also in Los Angeles, which we also lean on during the Super Bowl.


How critical is data storage to the technology needs of the NFL during the Super Bowl?

There is zero tolerance for any type of downtime. More and more people depend on the IT infrastructure at the Super Bowl to get things done. We can’t have any services go down, and I’m not just talking about on game day, but during the weeks leading up to it as well. Therefore availability is critically important. The high availability that NetApp® storage provides is essential; we can count on these products.


The activities at the Super Bowl are immense and our stakeholders typically have last-minute requests. For example, the amount and the size of files they request to keep are greater than ever before. They also expect their work experience to be the same as if they were in the office. Unfortunately we haven’t had the capacity to support these requests in the past. With NetApp we can now eliminate the stress that this caused.


We have the capacity and ability to do anything that anyone asks. We’re able to create services on the fly with the flexibility NetApp provides. The performance and protection of NetApp storage enable our stakeholders to work as if they were in the office while giving us the confidence that data is backed up. We can immediately recover our systems if needed. Now we’re able to meet our stakeholders’ needs on the most important game day of the year.


How do you support the needs of the media at the Super Bowl?

NFL IT provides services that the media depend on during the Super Bowl-the scanning of all media credentials, storing millions of photographs, and supporting the business operations of broadcasters in the compound. After the game, members of my staff work with the media to ensure that all of their data is available, protected, and stored.


When plays are being reviewed and everyone seems to go quiet in anticipation of the officiator’s call, what is your team doing?  

For every game, regardless if it’s the Super Bowl, we instantly report video back to our headquarters in New York. What the referee sees under the hood, the team in New York is seeing. Before the referee even gets over to the sideline, the NFL has already looked at the call and is advising the referee in his headset. We had to build out the infrastructure for this technology between every stadium. The movement and storage of the video are done in real time. This is an example of when availability and performance are critical. NetApp storage enables the instant playback and archival needs for this footage.


You’ve said that your team has to be ready for any challenge. How does NetApp help you mitigate risks during one of the most-watched sporting events in the world?

We’re always in it together. NetApp is on the “IT field” with us helping to solve challenges and provide solutions. If we lose all outside connectivity at the Super Bowl, we need to function like a mini city and be able to sustain operations if cut off from the outside world.


We can count on the high-availability features of NetApp and the redundancy built into the NetApp products and solutions, which also help us mitigate risks. If something happens to a local site, the replication features are very valuable; it’s one of the things we love about NetApp storage. We replicate the data locally both at the stadium and at the league hotel, and also to our data centers at league headquarters. We do this so we can exchange and back up information. With NetApp, we have peace of mind.


Your team certainly works very hard all year and especially for the Super Bowl. Do you ever get to take a break during the game?

Sometimes we get to enjoy a couple of minutes of the halftime show, but we’re very focused and checking our systems throughout the game because that is our number-one priority. After the game is over, it’s all hands on deck, and we pack everything up over the course of three days. The team takes some time to relax the week after the Super Bowl, but the off-season doesn’t exist for NFL IT. We’re constantly pushing the envelope of innovation.


NetApp is the Official Data Storage Provider to the NFL. Watch videos and more:

NetApp Staff