SMG prides itself on its quality management services for its venues, including the Superdome in New Orleans. The Superdome complex consists of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, home of the New Orleans Saints football team, as well as the Smoothie King Center and Champions Square. It hosts some of the largest sporting events in the United States, including the Super Bowl, College Football Championship, and the NCAA Final Four. Any event, regardless of size, needs to have consistent, stable service to make sure the event is successful.
However, aging network technology increasingly meant that the IT team was tackling recurring problems. The system had been installed after Hurricane Katrina, and the sheer age of the hardware was causing regular outages. The only upside to the outages was that they happened during the day, when employees were in their offices, as opposed to during evening events. By the time Matt Boyd, the current IT manager, arrived in 2014, the staff was used to resetting phones on the network as soon as an outage hit. This hindered productivity, so SMG turned toward a provider that could provide a solution that would stabilize the network.
Kicking Off a Stable Network
The first phase of the network upgrade was stabilizing router firmware, a process that would at least keep employees connected while the team searched for new hardware. It was a ‘duct tape’ solution, at best, that bought the IT team some time to investigate its options.
As Boyd and his team dove into its research, one vendor stood out: Extreme Networks. The team was already familiar with Extreme Networks hardware, and believed that would make the migration easier. Ultimately, SMG chose Extreme Networks Virtual Services Platform 8400 and Ethernet Routing Switch 4800 Series. “We got quotes from various other brands with what we thought we needed,” Boyd says. “But the Extreme Networks products did everything we needed them to do for the right price.”
Setting the Goalposts During Deployment
SMG had its own unique challenge when it came time to install its new network: timing. The first stage of planning involved finding dates for the upgrade, when any impact to the network would be the least disruptive. The team waited until after the football season ended and began the initial preparations. After Mardi Gras, SMG’s implementation partner was onsite and in constant contact with the team. If there was even a hint that something could go wrong, support would access the network remotely and make sure any hiccups were worked out. Boyd and his team finished the deployment and made the final cutover.
“Everything went very smoothly,” Boyd says. There were no surprises, and the new hardware was ready to handle the network traffic.
An Immediate Touchdown — and a More Secure Facility
While the firmware upgrade resulted in a more stable network, once the hardware replacement was finished, the IT team did not hear about a single issue. Users now have higher bandwidth connectivity, no downtime for shows, and the likelihood that the network will cut out is much lower than before.
One of the big upsides to the new network is an improved security system. Previously, with the aging hardware, the security cameras would need to be rebooted regularly. Now, a drastic 90% decrease in reported incidents means that the security team can spend time keeping employees and event attendees safe instead of troubleshooting hardware.
Prior to the network upgrade, before a Saints game, SMG had a checklist, which included making sure all the phones worked in each suite. The day before a game, part-time employees would walk to every suite, unplug, and then plug in every phone, effectively resetting 120 phones by hand. It would take one person a whole day. That unenviable task has been eliminated.
The IT team has also seen its own productivity increases. Prior to the cutover, IT staff spent at least 25 percent of its day chasing down network-related problems. Now, the team rarely deals with network issues, instead focusing on strategic initiatives and other improvements that can be made. The team spends 20% less time maintaining the network day to day, and has also seen a 30% faster time to implement changes due to the simplified network design.
For more information, contact your Extreme Networks Account Manager or a member of the Extreme partner program, or access other materials by clicking on Resource Library at www.extremenetworks.com.
Founded in 1977, SMG provides management services to more than 230 public assembly facilities including convention and exhibition centers, arenas, stadiums, theaters, performing arts centers, equestrian facilities, science centers and a variety of other venues. With facilities across the globe, SMG manages more than 15 million square feet of exhibition space and more than 1.5 million sports and entertainment seats. As the recognized global industry leader, SMG provides venue management, sales, marketing, event booking and programming, construction and design consulting, and pre-opening services for such landmark facilities as McCormick Place and Soldier Field in Chicago, Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, Houston’s NRG Park, and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. SMG also offers food and beverage operations through its concessions and catering company SAVOR, currently serving more than 130 accounts worldwide.