IBM VAR's Super Bowl Blade Servers Lead To NFL Deal


The deal for the blade servers, which was handled by IBM directly, not only helps the NFL successfully run this Sunday's Super Bowl XLIII, it also helped an IBM solution provider get a deal to provide blade servers to each of the 32 teams in the NFL.

IBM's sponsorship of the Super Bowl and its direct deal with the NFL for the Super Bowl infrastructure was key to signing that larger deal, which includes one chassis to be installed in each of the 32 team's IT infrastructures, said Vic Verola, vice president of sales for Vicom Computer Services, a Farmingdale, N.Y.-based solution provider and long-time IBM partner.

"We're working lock-step with IBM," Verola said. "It didn't happen without our knowing about it. We felt it was the best way to get the NFL to know the technology. It's a real good thing for all of us."

Four IBM BladeCenter S chassis, each with two blade servers, are running the behind-the-scenes support for the Super Bowl, in part because of the portability and mobility of the product, said Joe Manto, vice president of IT for the NFL.

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The mobility of the BladeCenter S, in particular the fact that they run on 120-volt power, was important, Manto said.

"We configured them in New York, and rolled them into each location, into open offices and not into data centers," he said. "For instance, to support the press, that unit is sitting in a tent on a wooden floor. We can go into a hotel and run it anywhere."

One of the BladeCenter S chassis has been installed in the NFL league office in Tampa Bay, Fla., to support the organization itself, another near the stadium to support the credentialing of up to 25,000 people for the event, another in the Tampa Bay Convention Center to offer pregame support to 5,000 press and PR people, and the fourth in a tent near the stadium to support press and PR during the game, said Jonathan Kelly, director of infrastructure computing for the NFL.

The infrastructure, which has been active since early this month, also includes hardware and wireless networking, virtualization, internal storage networks and 300 PCs, Manto said.

The blade servers were preconfigured in the NFL's corporate headquarters in New York, and then moved to Tampa Bay. Three of them have been working 24 x 7 for nearly a month, while the unit in the media tent was set up just before game day, Kelly said.

That last unit supports 40 PCs for users that need to produce quotes from every player in the game and distribute them to the media right after the game, Manto said.

"Of all our operations, that's the most wild," he said. "It gets set up just before game day, and it has to work. It's hypercritical. It's complete bedlam here. Then it gets ripped out that night."

Most of the technical work involved in setting up the blade servers was done by the NFL's IT team, Kelly said. However, it was a fairly quick process for the organization because the BladeCenter S is similar to the other IBM blade servers it has been using for the past six years, he said.

Once the Super Bowl is over and everything is headed back to New York in trucks by Tuesday, Kelly said he is not sure what will happen with the four blade server chassis. He hopes to be able to keep them.

In any event, the NFL liked the servers so much it ordered an additional 34 chassis, each with two blade servers from Vicom Computer Services. Of the 34 chassis, 32 are destined for the NFL's 32 teams, with one chassis per team.

Vicom has been working with the NFL for about three years. In addition to numerous smaller deals, the solution provider provided 34 SANs based on IBM's N-series storage products, as well as a server virtualization solution based on VMware to consolidate the league's offices, Verola said.

The 34 blade server chassis destined for the NFL are currently sitting in Vicom's facilities, Verola said. "As soon as the Super Bowl is over, we will roll them out," he said.

The NFL is as good a customer partner as any Vicom has worked with, Verola said.

"They bring us into projects early," he said. "Their projects are well- thought-out. They use the channel as it was meant to be. They are very good technically. And they rely on partners for the latest information. We do four or five briefings with them a year, and they just suck up the information."