ARLINGTON, Texas — Though the Dallas Cowboys will not be playing in the Super Bowl this year, the team has a history of winning. And with the help of Hewlett-Packard, that history is extending beyond the football field and has permeated the landmark Dallas Cowboys’ Stadium, where this year’s Super Bowl will be played.
HP is the system vendor of record providing the servers, storage, management software and services that essentially run the house that Jerry built. Jerry is Jerry Jones, the very hands-on owner of the Cowboys franchise.
Indeed, it was Jones’ hands-on, suffer-no-fools nature that prompted his IT staff to select HP as its technology provider. Bill Haggard, director of enterprise infrastructure for the Dallas Cowboys, said the Cowboys selected HP because they needed an IT provider that could ensure scalability to support the biggest events at the 82,000-seat venue, but also the day-to-day work of the Cowboys and the Jones family’s more than 35 other business operations.
And HP won out there because “they had the hardware roadmap we wanted to see for the next seven to 10 years,” Haggard said. “They were looking at the same chassis footprint over the next five to seven years and they had the willingness to sit down and see what our technology vision was over that time frame. They were more willing to share their thoughts and plans than some of the others out there.”
That paid dividends in this case, because, as Haggard said, “You don’t want to have to go back to Jerry two years down the road and say what we have is old and no longer works.”
That would not be a good move at all, because like his friend George Steinbrenner (now deceased), Jones does not long hold onto things that no longer work. Ask Wade Phillips, who Jones replaced as head coach after a miserable start to the 2010 season. Ask Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, friends of Jones from as far back as his football playing days at the University of Arkansas, but also former Super Bowl-winning Cowboys coaches who had to go because their game plans “no longer worked” for Jones (although Switzer officially resigned).
Yet the HP technology is humming along in the Dallas Cowboys’ data center and keeping the massive, ultra-modern structure working at a super-efficient clip.
The $1.2 billion-plus, 3.2-million-square-foot facility here is the largest domed stadium in the National Football League. The centerpieces of the stadium are the Mitsubishi-built video screens facing the sidelines, which are 70 feet tall and 60 yards in length, spanning the field from one 20-yard line to the other. The $40 million JumboTron or video board configuration has 30 million light bulbs and 25,000 square feet of video displays. Meanwhile, two 48-foot wide boards face fans sitting at both ends of the stadium, enhancing their game-day experience.
Haggard’s team of 13 IT specialists run the entire Cowboys operation and support not only the stadium and the club, but also the more than 35 other business entities the Jones family owns and operates.
More Innovation, Less Maintenance
The Cowboys Stadium IT infrastructure includes the data center with more than 127 Hewlett-Packard blade servers and a 100 terabyte SAN (storage area network) using HP’s StorageWorks 8100 Enterprise Virtual Array systems. The team built a high-speed communications network with Cisco Systems equipment that includes WiFi, IP phones and an IP television system that will broadcast content to 3,100 flat-screen Sony televisions throughout the stadium, showing live game footage, advertising and menus at the concession stands. The team also installed more than 300 IP security cameras to safeguard the facility, Haggard said. Meanwhile, for the Super Bowl, Jones is said to be considering adding up to another 1,000 TV monitors throughout the stadium.
Security is taken seriously at the Super Bowl. Indeed, Haggard said there will be up to 2,000 security specialists at the game, including hundreds of FBI and Secret Service agents.
The Cowboys Stadium IT staff is using 212 VMware virtual machines to run the point-of-sale terminals in the concession stands. Another 30 virtual machines are used as file and printer servers for daily operations, he adds. The team also bought 25 HP ProLiant rack servers to run the stadium’s video system and IP security cameras.
Meanwhile, Cowboys Stadium boasts enhanced cell phone service as well as WiFi service. The stadium is an AT&T Wireless hotspot and charges users $3.99 for access to the services. In addition, the stadium provides enhanced cellular service for Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and Metro PCS users, Haggard said. The stadium has 700 IP phones and more than 700 wireless access points, he said.
As with most things in Texas, the Cowboys Stadium is built big. Yet only two-thirds of the stadium itself is visible from the outside; the rest is underground, Haggard said. The field of the Dallas Cowboys Stadium is 50 feet below ground level. The entire Statue of Liberty and its base could fit inside the stadium with the roof closed, Cowboys officials said.
Haggard said that as opposed to how things worked in the old Cowboys stadium where his staff had to spend 70 percent of its time on maintenance and 30 percent on new technology, in the new stadium the team spends 80 percent of its time on innovation and new technology and only 20 percent on maintenance.
“Our on-site HP consultants are our linemen, our first line of defense,” said Pete Walsh, Dallas Cowboys head of technology. “They knew that if they did their part, everybody behind them would have the opportunity to be successful.”
And the IT staff continues to improve its setup. With HP Rapid Deployment Packs “we can throw servers up in 13 minutes,” Haggard said. And HP VMotion and Insight Dynamics provide constant monitoring and load balancing to keep the systems humming, he added.
Regarding future deployments and directions, Haggard said he is looking at VMware’s Site Recovery Manager as well as considering partnering with HP Services to handle some of the IT efforts.