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As the Green Bay Packers celebrated their 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears in this year's NFC Championship Game, Wayne Wichlacz, the Packers' director of information technology, was already thinking ahead to Super Bowl XLV. But he wasn't worrying about the Pittsburgh Steelers' ferocious pass rush or speedy wide receivers. Rather, Wichlacz was mentally going over the setup of an on-site IT environment in a suburban Dallas hotel that would serve as the team's Super Bowl IT operations center.
Wichlacz's goal was to recreate, in smaller scale, a faithful replica of the IT operations at Lambeau Field. This literally required a lot of heavy lifting: Wichlacz's 10-member IT team coordinated the transportation, from Green Bay to Dallas, of 80 coach and staff HP laptops, 15 printers and four HP Proliant servers for video and file sharing. All this equipment was packed up in three large ruggedized cases and loaded onto the plane as ordinary luggage.
Wichlacz's team arrived in Dallas on Monday before the Super Bowl, unpacked the equipment and set up two separate high speed networks, one for the team's business operations and the other for video. When Wichlacz arrived three days later, he was pleased to find no technical issues that might distract the Packers' coaches from their game day preparations.
For Wichlacz, who joined the Packers in 1993 as its first IT staffer, the smooth functioning of the team's IT operations was nearly as satisfying as the Packer's 31-25 triumph in Super Bowl XLV.
"The team that's most organized usually wins the game, as the saying goes in the NFL," Wichlacz said in a recent interview. "Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is very much a stickler for having the same routine for everything, including technology operations."
Wichlacz was also with the Packers for the team's 35-21 Super Bowl XXXI victory over the New England Patriots in January 1997. Brett Favre was the Packers' quarterback in that game, and the team's IT operations were simple: The Packers had just four PCs, two printers, one copier and a Remote Access Server (RAS) connected to two MicroVAX servers, according to Wichlacz.
Back then, Lambeau Field's IT was essentially a 10-day-per-year operation corresponding to the team's eight regular season and two preseason games. Now, fueled by the Packers' booming Pro Shop and special events businesses, Lambeau Field is open 350 days per year, and the Packers' IT operations encompasses e-commerce, e-mail marketing, CRM and data warehousing technologies, Wichlacz said.
The Packers run all of this on 80 Proliant servers with Lefthand Networks storage, about half of which are virtualized, said Wichlacz. The team works with Green Bay-based HP partner Camera Corner/Connecting Point (CCCP), whose CEO Rick Chernick is a member of the Packers board of directors. Wichlacz says the expertise Camera Corner/Connecting Point brings to the table has helped the Packers focus on their core business: winning football games.