For the NFL, Big Is Better -- Except in IT

The National Football League may have big stadiums, big players and big games, but when it comes to computer systems, the league's vice president of IT, Nancy Galietti, doesn't use the word big.

The NFL has three data centers -- or server rooms, as Galietti calls them -- that occupy about 2,000 square feet each.

The league has hired IBM to help it improve the efficiency of its IT operation. The goal is to keep operational costs flat but still meet demand for new services. To help accomplish that, the NFL has virtualized around 95% of its servers and is using virtualization to expand capacity without using new hardware.

Galietti said another tactic is to use private cloud services -- and that sets the stage for an eventual move to the public cloud.

Steve Sams, an IBM vice president, said the company studied more than 300 of its customers and found that only one in five is operating at the highest level of efficiency -- meaning it spends less than half of its IT budget on keeping data centers operational.

The organizations with the most efficient data centers have virtualized their servers and storage, Sams said. They manage more than eight virtual machines on a single physical server. In comparison, the ratio for "basic" data centers is 4.5 virtual machines per physical server. Highly efficient operations also use deduplication and a lot of automation.

Next up for the NFL: a statistics initiative, according to Galietti. Plans are still evolving in terms of the specific data that will be involved.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on

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