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Technology / Networks

Q&A: Olympic networking

Michael Bayer

What kind of equipment or services is Avaya providing to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games?

Avaya is providing networking (datacentre, WLAN, LAN), collaboration and communications equipment (UC) for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. We’ve designed a robust, simplified network using our VENA Fabric Connect, which makes it easier to deploy services, manage them and troubleshoot.

What challenges are involved in supplying the network equipment for such a major event?

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With large-scale events, it’s often a case of overcoming more logistical challenges. The sheer scale of the project means we don’t have full control over the venue until very close to the beginning of the Games so we have to be really prepared and well organised. The equipment we’ve deployed is designed to maximise operational simplicity, so it’s easy to seamlessly add new venues onto the fabric and assign the right user community to the right virtualised services network.

How does supplying network equipment for such an event differ from supplying network equipment for the average business?

You can draw many parallels between the average business and large scale projects such as Sochi 2014. Regardless of the scale and profile of the project, organisations of all sizes face many of the same challenges and should follow the same best practice approach. But there are also very obvious differences; Sochi 2014 is a truly global event with a fixed start date so there’s no room to manoeuvre on deadlines. Most businesses aren’t working to such strict deadlines and they certainly don’t have the whole world watching!

To what extent is outsourcing going to be an important aspect of Sochi 2014, and what can businesses learn from this?

All global enterprises need to adapt to local requirements and skillsets. In the case of Sochi 2014, there has been some outsourcing of technical resources to local Russian businesses, especially for the implementation and installation work. Collaboration like this is important in order to build broader skillsets in the Sochi region, the home of the Olympics. I’d definitely say that as the Olympic Games have evolved, there is a greater reliance on partner organisations, and a need for a network that is simple to deploy and operate. With Sochi 2014 a largely Greenfield site, much of the technology has started from scratch, rather than being overlaid on existing infrastructure, so we needed a network that was simple to deploy and operate, and has the ability to turn up and adjust new services on the fly with fewer IT resources.

What level of consultation and customer support has Avaya had to provide for Sochi 2014?

The Sochi 2014 Organising Committee needed a partner that had previous experience of Winter Games and could give strategic consultation. It also needed a vendor that could deliver an efficient, resilient and sustainable communications network. We have a long history of partnering with the Olympic Games movement, and have helped evolve and innovate the hosting, operations and fan experience for many years. In 2010, we built the model for the first all IP converged voice, data and video network solution, which is the standard at the Olympic Games today. As I mentioned before, we’ve designed the whole concept and worked hand in hand with the other OCOGs (Organising Committees of the Olympic Games) technology partners as well as with the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee)to ensure that processes are aligned. In our dedicated team, we’ve bundled a lot of professional services, as well as project and programme management resources.

What kind of network setup were the organisers looking for?

The most significant difference between Sochi 2014 and any Olympic Games that have gone before is that we assume the lion’s share of the access to the network will be wireless rather than wired. Creating a secure BYOD environment for organisers, athletes, media, and supporters was essential. What the organisers were looking for and what the Avaya Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture provides is to enable the media, athletes, officials, Olympic and Paralympic family, workforce and volunteers to communicate from anywhere at any time on any device on the network.

Creating a secure BYOD environment for organisers, athletes, media, and supporters is obviously vital for Sochi 2014. How has this been achieved?

With the advent of BYOD, the Organising Committee realised that to guarantee quality of service it is necessary to assign certain devices and certain users to specific service classes. This not only helps to protect bandwidth, but prevents security breaches. Avaya Identity Engines will assign access based on a user’s credentials (whether they’re media, athlete or IOC official), where they’re connecting from (for example the Olympic village or venues) and how they connect (wireless or wired). Users are then placed securely into the proper network with a predetermined level of service.

Sochi 2014 will be hosted in a variety of venues. Likewise, many businesses do work across various sites. How can business operate seamlessly and effectively in such circumstance?

The most important thing to have when operating across various sites is a common architecture and centralised management of the network. Indoor and outdoor wifi can help businesses be more productive and mean that employees don’t drop off the network as they move around or between sites.

The event will obviously involve the storing and processing of large amounts of data, multimedia streaming etc. Businesses are generally also dealing with more data than ever before. How can this be achieved?

The organisers expect the use of video streaming on mobile and tablet to make a breakthrough at Sochi 2014. This will place massive demands on the network. Just like in a business, it is vital to have a secure and robust network to deal with this, and also to be able to deal with users and their devices on an individual basis.

Are there any lessons to be learned here by normal businesses throughout the world?

Lots of the routine challenges that we faced with Sochi 2014 will be familiar to IT managers everywhere; the need for outsourcing specific services, the rise of BYOD; addressing huge data demands on the network, and operating across multiple sites. While the scale of Sochi 2014 is obviously much bigger, we all need to embrace and enable the new era of communications we live in today. To do this, we must put in place a clear and effective strategy that will enable them to achieve that goal.


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