Wednesday Wi-Fi Whispers: Brocade and the Niners, Part 2

Just a quick promised expansion of last week’s top story, the official signing of Brocade as the provider for the upcoming network in the new San Francsico 49ers stadium. Dave Stevens, Brocade CTO, told us that the deal between the networking gear provider and the team had been brewing for several years, while Brocade was building its new headquarters near the team’s Santa Clara training and business facility.

“Brocade’s campus buildings were all about being green, with photovoltaic power and LEED certification,” said Stevens, noting that some similar design guidelines (solar, sustainable) are being used in the Niners’ new stadium. “I think there was some commonality between them and us with vision.”

In terms of whether or not Brocade has the experience to build a stadium-ready infrastructure, Stevens said the company has already installed a couple stadium networks, but hasn’t publicized them. He also noted that Brocade typically sells to customers like large national telecom carriers and other big mission-critical enterprise businesses. “We grew up on that, so we’re confident with that [high pressure] environment,” Stevens said. In terms of stadium networks, he added, “we’re familiar with what has to be done.”

For the new Niners stadium, Stevens acknowledged that its location in the middle of Silicon Valley raises the bar for expectations about network performance. “It’s a much higher bar than for any other venue,” he agreed. “It’s the middle of Silicon Valley. But we should be able to put an infrastructure in place with enough capacity to drive whatever apps people can dream up.”

Right now Stevens said Brocade is guessing that a lot of the Wi-Fi gear will incorporate the new 802.11ac standard, which holds the promise of much greater throughput and much better antenna performance. But he also knows that in the ensuing two years before the stadium is scheduled to open, advances in mobile devices will probably continue to push the envelope for mobile data networks.

“There’s just an unprecedented amount of I/O capacity that’s now being carried around in people’s pockets,” Stevens said. “If you’re a tech guy it’s scary. But we are looking to deliver an unprecedented [wireless] experience, and make sure it’s ready by day one.”

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