This weekend most of the world will be glued to televisions or smartphones as they watch the venerable Tom Brady play in his 10th Super Bowl (his first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after nine with New England) as he battles the much younger Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Brady will be gunning for ring No. 7 as Mahomes tries to go back-to-back for the first time since Brady did it in the early 2000s for the Patriots.
While the teams and venues change every year, there has been one constant for this event and the past seven Super Bowls, and that’s Extreme Networks. It has been the network behind the big game every year since 2003. The network vendor has had an official partnership with the NFL for almost a decade, and its network equipment can be found in many stadiums, including Gillette Stadium (Patriots), Nissan Stadium (Tennessee Titans), Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia Eagles) and a number of other venues.
Recently, I had a chance to interview Extreme COO Norman Rice. The complete conversation can be watched here on my ZKast video podcast, done in conjunction with eWEEK.
Facts and figures on Extreme and the Super Bowl
Highlights of the interview are as follows:
- Extreme is the largest enterprise network pure-play vendor, with revenues close to $1 billion. The company is one of four leaders in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for wired and wireless LAN infrastructure.
- The company has seen steady growth over the past year, even with the pandemic shaking the industry up.
- In March 2020, the stock was under $3/share. At the time of writing, it was $9/share, indicating greater confidence from customers and investors.
- The catalyst for growth has been the company’s Infinite Enterprise vision, coupled with the cloudification of their products.
- Extreme first entered the NFL through the New England Patriots, when it was the only WiFi vendor willing to guarantee network performance.
- This will be Extreme’s eighth consecutive Super Bowl, only two behind the number of appearances that QB Tom Brady has had.
- Extreme provides the WiFi infrastructure as well as the network analytics for the game.
- Network bandwidth has steadily grown year over year. In 2013 (SB XLVII) only a couple of terabytes of network data was generated from only about 15% to 20% of the fans connecting to WiFi. In 2020, WiFi traffic was north of 24TB with more than 90% connecting via WiFi.
- The NFL prefers fans to connect over WiFi versus cellular, as it can collect the data and perform analytics on it. This helps them understand the percent of people using the different social apps, enabling the NFL to focus how it interacts with fans.
- The challenge for previous Super Bowls was ensuring there was enough capacity, and the network maintained its performance, particularly at kickoff and halftime, when usage was peak.
- The official attendance for Super Bowl LV will be 22,000 fans, one third of the 66,000-person capacity of Raymond James Stadium, so WiFi performance should not be an issue.
- Super Bowl LV will be the first all-digital game, where mobile devices will be used for everything from mobile ticketing to purchasing to security credentials. Because of COVID-19, paper tickets, cash and credit cards will not be used. Digital signage will also be used for menu boards and other use cases, putting more traffic on the network. For this Super Bowl, network resiliency and security are paramount.
- Extreme Networks is now working with NASCAR and Major League Baseball, so expect to see the Extreme logo at other sporting venues soon.
- Norman Rice predicts the Chiefs will lift the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday, while I believe the old man (Brady is 43!) has one more Super Bowl in him. The score will be 35-31 Tampa, and after that, the town will be renamed to “Tompa.”
Enjoy the game!
Image courtesy of CBS Sports