It's Up & It's Good -- NEC, Avaya Score Big In The NFL
San Franciso 49ers Team Up
For End-To-End Converged Solution
In professional football, preparation is everything. At this level, every NFL team can claim good players, smart coaches, and a desire to win. But what separates the champions from contenders in the National Football League is a teamï¿½s ability to physically and mentally prepare for each opponent.
ï¿½In this industry, efficient use of time is everything,ï¿½ says Les Schmidt, chief operating officer for the San Francisco 49ers. ï¿½We operate on a Sunday-to-Sunday clock. If our coaching staff does not have a game plan in place by Wednesday morning, we canï¿½t buy more time by moving our game back to Monday. We have to make sure we have the proper infrastructure in place to give our staff the tools they need in order to prepare our players for their next game.ï¿½
Like most successful businesses, the 49ers rely heavily on their communications network, and expect it to perform at the highest levels of performance and reliability. Second-best is not good enough for this team.
To give the 49ers that competitive edge it sought, the team met with ATI, an authorized NEC telecommunications dealer, who discussed the teamï¿½s immediate and long-term needs. After evaluating the 49ersï¿½ existing infrastructure and equipment, ATI recommended that the club integrate NEC America Inc.ï¿½s (NEC) end-to-end converged solution into its existing network. According to ATI, the decision to recommend NECï¿½s communications systems was easy.
ï¿½One of the biggest reasons the 49ers met with us was their need to integrate several existing networks into one manageable infrastructure, said Steve Viets, chief executive officer for ATI. ï¿½We needed to offer a solution that would reduce the amount of time necessary to complete certain tasks, and we had to work with a vendor that could operate within a multiple-vendor environment. NECï¿½s NEON strategy and end-to-end solutions clearly meet all of these objectives.ï¿½
The core philosophy that drives the development and introduction of NECï¿½s converged solutions, NEON (NECï¿½s Enterprise Open Networks) allows customers to evolve to new technology when it makes business sense for them. As a result, the enterprise has the opportunity to adopt new technologies such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) transport without impacting the reliability and features their businesses demand. This philosophy resonated with the 49ers.
ï¿½Our mantra throughout the organization is ï¿½Set the Standardï¿½ï¿½ related Mr. Schmidt. ï¿½The 49ers have a reputation for outstanding football, as evidenced by our five Super Bowl titles. We expect our entire staff to embrace excellence and innovation. And one of our most pressing missions is to explore how technology can improve the performance of the team and the performance of our business.ï¿½
As in years past, the team utilizes three separate networks to serve its needs. The 49ers organization uses voice and data much like other businesses: General office communications, reviewing e-mail, and conducting research on the Internet. Yet as a sports franchise, the communications network takes on a whole different purpose. The 49ers subscribe to a video network that is instrumental in evaluating plays and personnel, and ultimately, in how game plans evolve. This video is essential in helping the team evaluate upcoming opponents and develop on-field strategies. Properly leveraging this infrastructure is a critical component in the 49ers ability to prepare game plans, a process that was eating up much of the ï¿½Sunday to Sundayï¿½ clock under the previous system.
ï¿½Under our previous infrastructure, the video and data networks were completely incompatible and were managed separately,ï¿½ explained Alex Ignacio, director of information services for the team. ï¿½If a coach wanted to share video highlights for an upcoming opponent, he basically had to move the video file to a CD, transfer the file to a different PC and then send the file over the data network to our other coaches. This created a burdensome, expensive and inefficient use of the teamï¿½s resources. It wasted a lot of very precious time.ï¿½
Fortunately, ATI had a solution for the team that would significantly reduce the complexity and inefficiency the teamï¿½s coaches were experiencing under the old system. At ATIï¿½s suggestion, the 49ers integrated NECï¿½s BlueFire 720 Gigabit Ethernet switch into their network. This platform integrated both the existing video and data infrastructure into one manageable network, resulting in huge time savings and more productivity. And hopefully, even better game preparation.
ï¿½We needed a new solution that would enable us to converge our data, video, and voice networks into one manageable infrastructure and would increase productivity and efficiency. NECï¿½s BlueFire 720 switch gave us what we desperately needed
-- a platform that enables our coaches to quickly download video, share it with the rest of the staff, and turn it into a game plan. The coaching staff is extremely pleased with the time efficiencies the new system provides,ï¿½ said Mr. Ignacio.
As a result of introducing the BlueFire 720, the 49ers game plan preparation has taken on a whole new degree of creativity. Coaches now prepare their plans on PowerPoint and integrate video components into their work to better illustrate strategies and tactics. This multi-media approach has caught the eyes of the players, who before sat bleary-eyed during team strategy sessions.
ï¿½We can see that the players are more engaged during these presentations,ï¿½ commented Mr. Schmidt, ï¿½which was an unanticipated benefit.ï¿½
Additionally, the BlueFire 720 is engineered to operate in a multi-vendor environment, so the switch had no trouble functioning with the various Cisco products within the 49ersï¿½ infrastructure.
The next step that the team took in revamping its network was installing two of NECï¿½s NEAX 2000 IPS PBXs: one at the teamï¿½s headquarters in Santa Clara and the other at 3Com Park in San Francisco, the site of 49ers home games. This move resulted in several telephony benefits, such as four-digit dialing throughout its geographically diverse network and the installation of one voice mail system to handle both sites.
More importantly, the pair of NEAX 2000 IPS PBXs gives the 49ers the opportunity to leverage IP telephony anywhere within their network, when they choose. And if the team elects to continue its use of TDM technology, the NEAX systems handle that equally well.
ï¿½Many businesses around the country are choosing to integrate the NEAX 2000 IPS into their existing networks for many of the same reasons the 49ers have,ï¿½ explained Mike Rosen, general manager of NEC Americaï¿½s Corporate Networks Group. ï¿½A lot of companies express interest in IP telephony, yet in reality, very few businesses are prepared to fully deploy this technology throughout the enterprise. We are finding that businesses are interested in a platform that allows them to use both VoIP and TDM within their network, and delivers the same reliability and functionality they are accustomed to. The NEAX 2000 IPS meets all of these requirements.ï¿½
By incorporating NECï¿½s end-to-end converged solution into its communications network, the San Francisco 49ersï¿½ coaches and staff are now working more creatively and efficiently. Will it translate into a sixth Super Bowl victory for the team? No one can say for sure. But now that the coaches can better utilize their time to prepare the team, theyï¿½ve taken several steps toward their ultimate goal
-- to be playing in San Diego come January.
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