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Behind-The-Scenes Superbowl Tech 154

jfruhlinger writes "You might be a hardcore sports fan or might think of jocks with disdain, but if you're a geek you'll probably be intrigued by the tech behind the brand-new stadium where this weekend's Superbowl will be played. 84 Cisco access points, 70 wiring closets, 40,000 wired ports, 8 million feet of Ethernet cabling, 260 miles of fiber, 100 TB of storage — all on a single network."
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Behind-The-Scenes Superbowl Tech

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  • 884 APs (Score:4, Informative)

    by zn0k ( 1082797 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @08:09PM (#35085796)

    There are 884 APs, not 84 as the summary claims.

    84 APs would be pitiful. Cisco recommends no more than 35 users per AP radio. You can probably push that up to 50 for public access WiFi, maybe - if you're thin stretched - a little bit more as long as many clients are 5GHz devices. Given that many APs will be back of the house and not accessible to the public you wouldn't be able to serve more than one to two thousand users on 84.

    • Honestly 84 would most likely be enough for the superbowl, sure there are thousands of people there. But probably less then 1,000 of them 1. are geeky enough to want to be on their laptops at the superbowl. 2. Think it's a good idea to even bring a laptop into a heavily crowded chaotic area filled with screaming crazy people holding beverages, and who knows how many thieves wanting to take advantage of the situation. Sure smart phone usage is way up, but considering most all of them have a data plan anyway
      • by zn0k ( 1082797 )

        If you read the article, "ATT WiFi is everywhere in the building". That is referring to ATT augmenting their 3G network via WiFi. All their WiFi enabled smart phones look for an SSID named attwifi. The layer three gateway of that network triggers the phones to submit their phone number to that gateway, which looks it up in the ATT subscriber database and grants access if you have a data contract with them. That alone will account for many, many thousands of users. Doing that is significantly cheaper for ATT

        • by Qubit ( 100461 )

          All their WiFi enabled smart phones look for an SSID named attwifi. The layer three gateway of that network triggers the phones to submit their phone number to that gateway, which looks it up in the ATT subscriber database and grants access if you have a data contract with them.

          Wait, so if I just set my SSID to "attwifi" and mess around with some no-op challenge/response stuff when phones connect, I can pretend to be an official AP for AT&T cell phones? I sure hope all of the data flowing over that network is encrypted...

          • by zn0k ( 1082797 )

            Don't know how hard it is to become a gateway. But it's distributed via unencrypted, public WiFi. The SSID is active at any Starbucks - go to one for a half hour and play with a packet sniffer.

          • Probably not. But if you really want to watch me reading slashdot by sniffing the network, go right ahead. All the important stuff is done over SSL.

      • Laptop? It's 2011 dude. Cell phones are WiFi capable these days. People will be watching the game on their phones while they stand in line for food, or are sitting in the bathroom stalls getting rid of the food.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by adolf ( 21054 )

          Er, uh. I'm not much of a football fan -- at all -- but all I can think is this:

          They're at the Superbowl. The fucking SUPERBOWL. Have they nothing more important to do than fuck with their iPhones, wait in huge lines for bad and expensive food, and then wait in huger lines to recycle the food, while wasting similarly huge amounts of time shuffling to and from their designated seat?

          Couldn't they just eat and shit before they show up at the stadium, so they might actually be able to ... you know ... watch

          • by Skater ( 41976 )
            In my experience, you might go for food/restroom breaks ONCE throughout the 3.5-4 hours you're there. That doesn't seem unreasonable to me. And usually you do it during one of the breaks in the game. Last game I was at that's exactly what happened - at halftime, we went to the restroom and grabbed some food. The rest of the time we were in our seats watching the game.
      • by Skater ( 41976 )
        I think you're underestimating smart phone saturation. My wife and I go to hockey games at Verizon Center in DC, and we both have iPhones (and yes I am aware of the irony of using an AT&T phone in a place named "Verizon Center"). Before this season, the 3G network was basically unusable between the periods, and not very good the rest of the time. This year, the arena installed free Wifi for attendees, and that, while cool, is still pretty limited - we usually can't connect to either network they set
  • 8 million feet = 1,515 miles, in case anyone was wondering.
  • Hey, look! (Score:5, Funny)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @08:11PM (#35085810)
    A Cisco ad!
  • From TFA

    Also, they have their own 5,000 sq ft data center in the stadium. Pretty cool, but I think I'll still wait until the game's over so I can watch the commercials online in one go!

    • That's the only reason I watch the Super Bowl. Although lately the ads haven't been too great. We don't get the cool "Bud. Weis. Er" ads of the past.

      • We don't get the cool "Bud. Weis. Er" ads of the past.

        "Doctor, this patient has money coming out the wazoo..."

    • 5,000 square feet of data center and only 100TB of storage? Those hard drives must feel like they are princesses!
      • What could they need 100 TB of storage for?

        • Most of the data is probably video. They have a gazillion cameras, recording in HD and 3D, and they may well need to store it raw/uncompressed, compressed, before and after editing. I do not have any intuition about how much space one game's video might take up, but they probably have seasons-worth of footage stored there, probably from thousands of games where commentators might refer during play. Someone else in another thread was talking about the Cleveland Indians being able to recall statistics and

          • There is also the possibility that it's not just game footage being written there, the security cameras watching the crowd must need storing as well.
    • Pretty cool, but I think I'll still wait until the game's over so I can watch the commercials online in one go!

      It'll be more entertaining to watch you act them out for us at the water cooler on Monday.

  • A single network you say?

    Am I the only one seeing an unexpected sacking by the angry geeks?

    • by zn0k ( 1082797 )

      Sadly most people assume that if something shares physical infrastructure, it must be on the same network. I guess that's why it's IT world, not Network World.

    • by dave562 ( 969951 )

      Isn't that convenient. Guest wireless access on the same network as the POS terminals and EVERYTHING else. I'm all for VLAN segregation and ACLs, but come on now? How hard is it to isolate the network that handles transactions from the network that the fans are using to update Facebook?

      I am going to give these guys the benefit of the doubt and assume that the reporter is just an idiot. There is no way that everything is on the same network. That would be security stupidity. I can imagine it now, "No y

      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        Why not? Amazon and others handle millions of secure credit card transactions over the open internet every day, why should a shared physical infrastructure be inherently less secure?
      • Same network, not the same network.It depends on how you define "network".

        40,000 ports, PLUS 884 Access points each capable of 20-50 connections each all on the same configurable network infrastructure = one network. OR you can look at collision(broadcast) domains and understand that 40,000 connections alone would be impossible, and realize that they use VLANS and other routing protocols to segment the collision domains logically (routing, security, public, private, command/control etc).

        I understood what th

  • No cheerleaders? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @08:28PM (#35085936)

    This weekend's Super Bowl clash between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers will be the first in the game's 45 year history sans cheerleaders. []

  • The storage is cool (Score:4, Informative)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @08:33PM (#35085990)
    One thing I found interesting is that the Cleveland Indians are a big user of storage. When the player is in the hole (second next to bat) they can bring up any and every pitch they have ever received from the current pitcher and likely relievers. That means the metadata has to be fast enough to find the pitches and then the streaming media server has to be able to serve it up basically instantly if they want to view a couple of different at bats in the time they are in the hole, pretty cool IMHO.
    • by swb ( 14022 )

      There was an article in the NY Times about Major League Baseball doing this for EVERY CAMERA ANGLE for EVERY PLAY, with full metadata for everything happening, including what crazy shit people write on signs.

      Apparently it was all in queryable database so that you could find out, say, what happened when Batter X faced Pitcher Y on Team Z in Stadium 2.

      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        Yeah, found the article [], it's interesting that they talk about the pitch thing like it's a future possibility, talking to the guys from the Indians they were already doing it in production this year.
    • by fishbowl ( 7759 )

      I have a friend who runs the booth equipment that does titles on sports events, with the NFL games being the biggest gig.
      The thing that strikes me about it is how low-tech the process really is. The stats data is available for pretty much the entire history of the league, and they can pull up whatever they want, but beyond that it's really simple, a director says what they want in the headset and the operator looks it up, and it gets displayed in whatever format was defined in the couple of hours they have

  • All those miles of cat6, fiber, and aps are great but tell us more about the software! The only software mention in TFA was mobile apps. Me so sad.
  • by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @08:47PM (#35086084) Homepage Journal
    A friend of mine from high school was a sociology major at Tulane. However, he did work in the computer labs as his work-study job. Senior year rolls around, and the Super Bowl comes to New Orleans. The NFL asked the Tulane computer labs for a few student assistants who they could hire to help out. He ends up impressing the guys enough that they offer him a job doing some basic IT work for them - at NFL headquarters in Manhattan.

    He ended up parlaying that into a job with the WHO, and then moved to Geneva, where he's been ever since. Probably the most successful sociology grad they've had in a long time.
  • by TheCodeFoundry ( 246594 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @08:51PM (#35086116)

    I, for one, would love to see the UI that the techs use to run the queries on obscure NFL statistics during games.

    "This is only the second time 3 consecutive 3rd down conversions have occurred between 11-3 rated AFC teams in outdoor stadiums with 2nd string quarterbacks using a QB option play"

    And they are able to run these queries quickly...usually within the time of the next play. How do they do that? Is it raw TSQL styled queries or do they have some kind of UI for that?

    • I have wondered about that too. The way I would do it would be to have a number of canned queries that become relevant as the game progresses, each able to flag itself if something "unusual" should occur. Surely they are able to query on the spot but there has to be a somewhat large pool of "interesting" things preprogrammed - just waiting to happen.

    • I'll bet you money that the system just spits out stats like that for the benefit of the announcers. I'm sure they have one or more people doing realtime reporting as well. If the database is put together worth a damn then the queries won't even take long.

    • I have no doubt in my mind that there are staticians conjuring up stats for the announcers to talk about. My question is, do they have specific staticians that they work with? Like a good producer or something like that. Like do they announcers just use the local stadiums guy, or do they bring in there man that they know can kick out the craziest stats?
      • I'm fairly certain they bring their own statistician; every now and then when they're giving shout-outs to the production team they mention "our statistician"
  • the stadium has thousands more TVs, each with its own IP address

    The truth is out: Football is driving the IPv4 address space exhaustion!

  • The Super Bowl will take as much power as a medium sized town. [] Good news for those Texas doctor's offices and schools who got power outages of 2-3 hours. Clearly we're not as important as JerryWorld.
    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Well I think the answer is simple. Texas should simply cut back on selling power to California as needed. Maybe then they'll get around to building a nuke plant or two.

    • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

      Yeah, won't somebody think of all those poor schoolchildren sitting in the dark. At 5 PM. On a Sunday.

      • Nobody thought about those poor children at 10 AM. On a Wednesday. Because their cameras were all at the Media Day. Or whatever NFL was doing at the JerryDome today
  • 2TB drives are $100
    $100 x 50 = $5,000 worth of storage. $10k if you include the cost of the file servers. Not very impressive.

    My friend just put together a 8TB NAS for ~$1000...
    • by fishbowl ( 7759 )

      How long does it take from start to finish to write a terabyte of uncompressed digital video?
      If you need to improve that dimension, the price goes up steeply.

      • True. I'm not an expert in how the HD cameras transfer the data to the storage but I'd imagine its done somewhat cheaply with COTS equipment. Streaming raw HD video is heavy duty but I'd be surprised if those cameras don't put it in a much more efficient format.

        1080p H.264 only needs a 20mbit pipe to stream right?
        I think a decent RAID card and gigabit NICs should be able to handle several of those streams at once...
    • by bongey ( 974911 )
      Yes cheap off the shelf drives are $100, but what if you want real enterprise level drives . 10k RPM 600GB SAS drive is 600 bucks, no $100.
      Car analogy:
      My friend bought a car , a Toyota Carola and it only cost him 10k, it is just as good as your Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra.
      See your broken logic.
      • by fotbr ( 855184 )

        In all fairness, if the intended use is merely to get from point a to point b in accordance with all appropriate motor vehicle laws, then you can make the case that either is sufficient.

        • That was my thought. If the NIC is the limiting factor (likely if you are streaming video) then there is no need for faster, hotter, less efficient hard drives (which is very similar to the Cobra vs Camry comparison:).

          Of course, people like to have the bad ass hardware, myself included, and it is hard to ask for a six figure salary when you are managing $10k worth of equipment...
          • by guruevi ( 827432 )

            You really think they're streaming over 100Mbit/s? Most likely the camera's are connected with at least a gigabit connection for the low res and FibreChannel, 10GbE or some proprietary link for the rest and there are a LOT of camera's. To stream random input like that at a 2K uncompressed already exceeds 1 Gbps per stream and then you have the database, statistics crunching, parity or mirroring overhead, disk failures and repairs etc. etc. Your 50 SATA hard drives are not going to pull that. Even if you're

        • by bongey ( 974911 )
          Don't think that is even true. I can take the my mustang and follow all motor vehicle laws and get from point a to b faster than you in your Toyota. (seek time==acceleration), especially in traffic.
          Now another weird thing that is off topic a bit, for some reason when I drive my mustang, people get out of my way, but for some reason when I drive my little 4 door saturn. Everyone seems to cut me off , get in my way , attempt to race me when I pass them, it is like I have kick me sign on the back of my car,
          • Say the cobra does 0-60 in 5 seconds .. and the camry does it in 15 .. thats 10 seconds that you are traveling faster .. then you are moving the same speed.

            60 mph == 1 mile per min. 10 seconds == 1/6 of a mile ..

            even if this was instant .. you would gain 1/6th of a mile at the start .. and thats it.

            Perhaps some at the end where the stang can outbreak the camry .. Or perhaps around the off ramp where it will handle better.

            There would be no advantage in traffic , as your speed is controlled by the car in fron

            • by bongey ( 974911 )
              Don't think they are scared of mustang, but it seems respectable car. I don't know how many times I have gone to pass someone in the saturn and the speed up. It is like "oh no , I am not going to let a saturn pass me". In the mustang they never even try, unless maybe if it is a camaro or something else, but in the saturn everyone doesn't want you to pass them, it is really annoying.
              I also said I won't break any laws, but you might lose your lunch. I also average about 26k miles a year of driving a year,m
              • Ok .. makes sense about the lack of respect for a Saturn .. My point of reference being a crown vic , which folks got out of the way for. Likely thinking I was a cop or something.

                Also .. not really trying to argue .. but driving hard enough to make someone loose there lunch would likely violate most states catch all "reckless driving" laws.

                • by bongey ( 974911 )
                  No arguing. Just explaining. You would be surprised how many maneuvers are legal, but most people would think they are illegal. Nothing illegal about driving down the street backwards, e-brake u-turns are another, which requires a little skill to not look "reckless" , just a little break in u-turn can save you the extry 2 points in the in the 3-point turn.
            • So you think HDDs spend more time reading a constant stream of data (driving at a specific speed) vs seeking out that data?

              What happens to your results if the drive(r) is spending more time seeking (accelerating) than reading data (going a constant speed).

    • My friend just put together a 8TB NAS for ~$1000...

      That's great, Sparky. Now host 100,000 people, several thousand journalists, multiple channels of live Hidef video, and 100 million people expecting you to not fuck up.
  • I wanted to see some of the tech they use on the field, specifically the "flying" camera, the scrimmage line painter, and the 3D stuff.
    • by kent_eh ( 543303 )

      I wanted to see some of the tech they use on the field, specifically the "flying" camera, the scrimmage line painter, and the 3D stuff.

      That stuff doesn't belong to the stadium, it's in the TV network's truck. Like the guy in the video said "the TV networks have their own equipment in trucks downstairs"

    • he scrimmage line painter,

      Fascinating, yes, but that was last year [].

  • I'd like to see numbers on the cost of all the "spot the terrorist" cameras and facial identification and over-head blimp/uav monitoring stuff the DHS/FBI/whatever does at this event.

  • There's no such thing as a "Superbowl." It's two words. Super Bowl.
  • It was opened in May of 2009, has had two full pre-seasons and regular seasons of Football, concerts, boxing matches, the NBA All Star Game already. []

  • So here you have the largest stadium network, and they put business information on the same network as the unwashed public?

    I've configured numerous networks involving business data and customer access, and I'uine *never* put them on the same network - that's just stupid and invites the bored hacker to penetrate your network and disable and/or sniff the network for juicy details.

  • Out of all the stats we saw, there's just nothing that's really impressive. A building that large with that much cabling sounds pretty average. The number of ports really isn't all that amazing either. These days, cash registers with credit card terminals all use ports. I'd imagine there are 10 ports used just for the registers at each hot dog or beer stand. Cameras probably are transmitting losslessly either over a box that I make using JPEG2000 over 1Gb or a box from Cisco that does no compression over 10

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein