Every IT project for business is time-sensitive, but perhaps none so much as the Olympic Games where it is not just every second, but every millisecond that counts.
French service provider Atos Origin is lead worldwide IT partner for London 2012, taking the role for its sixth consecutive Games. It aims to guarantee among other things that every event, team, individual or national triumph can be captured and reported to the media in less than half a second.
It is no mean feat. Working with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), Atos Origin is leading the multi-year integration of technology infrastructure and systems most of which involve an interlocking system of partners.
An Olympian task
The Games will run for 17 days, with 300 events in 36 sports held across 94 Olympic venues. This will require a fully redundant data network comprising some 900 servers, 1,000 network and security devices, 10,000 computers and 200,000 hours of testing.
Atos Origin will manage 3,500 technology specialists who will work around the
clock to tight, rigid deadlines to guarantee information flow to 203 national
committees, 14,700 athletes, 22,000 accredited members of the media and 70,000 volunteers.
Michele Hyron, Atos Origin’s chief integrator for London 2012, said the aim was to make London the most sustainable games yet.
“For the first time, we will implement a solution designed with the IOC the Olympic Data Feed to consolidate all data feeds to the newswires, web sites and London 2012 intranet into a single solution to provide a more sustainable and efficient service,” she said.
“We have to bring together a big team for this event, comprised of 3,500 staff from Atos Origin, the other technology partners and LOCOG.”
For example, virtualisation is being evaluated with a view to it playing a large role. Also, a service called Remote INFO for accessing the 2012 intranet is expected to reduce printing costs by supplying event schedules and results directly to journalists’ computers.
Unlike most IT projects, the Games’ IT really has to be delivered on time the event dates and times are fixed years ahead and cannot be changed to incorporate any problems with infrastructure or budgeting. Testing must be completed before the
opening ceremony. The pressure on IT providers is enormous.
“Another challenge is speed,” said Hyron. “We have to keep the right pace for the project.”
Atos Origin’s experience at previous Olympiads was a big factor in it being chosen for London.
The company has already deployed staff from Beijing on the 2012 project, but this time there was already a large local presence meaning that the team could start work earlier on 2012 than it had been able to for previous Games.
According to the IOC, progress is going well. IOC Commission chairman Denis Oswald said after its latest visit in late 2008: “We have been impressed by the progress made since our visit last year, particularly in moving from planning to operational delivery.”
Yet each Games is different. There were 50 per cent more news stories
published in Beijing than in Athens, and the media coverage is expected to leap
by a similar
margin in 2012.
“[In Beijing] we had 12 million IT security events each day, of which less than 100 were identified as real problems,” said Hyron.
“And we are looking at ways of using less equipment by providing IT services that can reuse existing equipment. Sustainability is becoming more important, and the success of the Games really depends on our methodology and business processes. We have been working from Games to Games for two years, we will test and test again.”
Patrick Adiba, Atos Origin’s executive vice president for the Games, said partner management is critical for success. Not only must Atos Origin deliver, but it must ensure its myriad partners achieve the same high standards.
“We must be one team, working for one goal,” said Adiba. “It’s about risk management. The Olympics is a risk-driven project from beginning to end you are always asking, ‘what are the potential risks?’.”
Gerry Pennell, chief information officer at LOCOG, said his team set up an integration test hub which simulates the Olympic set-up in one room. Unlike in normal commercial testing, the Games team cannot do a roll-out bit by bit.
Major vendor partners include Acer, BT, Nortel, Samsung, Omega and Panasonic but partnering them are myriad smaller technology providers and specialists.
“BT, for example, is providing the network infrastructure and mobile telephony, while Omega does timing,” said Purnell. “Business partners then have their own responsibilities within the plan for all their partners.”
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