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Why the NFL is turning to Wi-Fi analytics

Although the Super Bowl was a complete failure for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, network data shows that it was a smashing success for the NFL and its fans.

This has been quite the past half a year for the once-beleaguered Extreme Networks. Given all the change in the industry and all the media focus on network startups and SDNs, Extreme Networks had almost become the forgotten-about network vendor. Six months ago, Extreme’s stock price was trading at a little over $3.50/share and the company had recently gone through a CEO change.

Today, the company seems to have had a complete facelift and the stock has more than doubled in price. In November, Extreme acquired Enterasys Networks and effectively doubled the organization’s revenues. Earlier this year, the company was named the official Wi-Fi analytics provider of the NFL. While this may seem like an odd thing to form a partnership around, Wi-Fi analytics holds massive potential for Extreme.

It seems every company today is trying to improve the customer experience, and the NFL is no different. In fact, in this era of fantasy football and social media, NFL fans are constantly checking scores, tweeting and posting Facebook updates, and the NFL has been on a mission to improve the in-stadium fan experience.

This week, along with a snappy new logo, the company announced the release of a product called “Purview,” which is actually the technology that makes the NFL’s Wi-Fi analytics possible. Purview is currently deployed at the home stadiums of the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, and MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and Jets. The NFL used Purview this past weekend to capture data and actually created this infographic from the event.

Although the Super Bowl was a complete failure for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, it appears to have been a smashing success for the NFL and its fans. Some of the interesting data points were that more than 13,000 fans connected to Wi-Fi and pushed more than 3.2 TB of data over the network during the game. Not surprisingly, the majority of usage was social networking updates and web updates.

For Extreme, the win with the NFL should be the starting point of a much bigger opportunity. Trying to understand and improve the customer experience has become a top initiative for business leaders across almost every vertical, and data is the key to accomplishing this. However, most analytic platforms don’t incorporate network data but, in many ways, understanding network traffic is the only way to map application usage accurately to user behavior to make business decisions.

The Purview solution is a data collection tool comprised of an analytics engine that can be deployed as a physical appliance or a virtual workload, combined with a network management front end. Purview collects data across the entire network from the data center to the access edge, including the wired and wireless network.

At release, the Purview signature set will contain more than 13,000 application finger prints, including CRM, ERP, web collaboration and social apps, and is customizable for in-house developed applications.

With the shift to network-centric computing models, such as mobile and cloud computing, combined with the rise of social and collaborative applications, the enterprise network must be viewed as a strategic asset. Products like Purview can provide rich analytics integrated with network management tools to help enterprise IT see, control, and analyze data better. Extreme has certainly been a company on the rise over the past six months, and the launch of Purview should open up some new opportunities to keep the momentum going.

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