Olympic IT Won’t Live in the Cloud

When planning began for the technological infrastructure for the London 2012 Olympic Games back in 2009, cloud technology was considered but rejected for being too “cutting edge” to ensure complete reliability. As we now know, cloud and virtualisation solutions can be very reliable, depending on the service that’s used. Whilst Michele Hyron, the chief integrator for the project says that they tech infrastructure won’t be in the cloud, she does add that they are using some virtualisation.

“We are always working with proven technologies: at the beginning of the project we take the technology steps that are needed because you cannot be frozen forever, so we have to evolve, but we are [careful] choosing the pieces,” she told TechRepublic.

The operational challenges presented by the Games are substantial; factor in that the event and surrounding infrastructure drives transport, accommodation, ticket sales, the movement of people and much more and you begin to realise the sheer scale of the operation.

This has meant that at the initial planning stages, the organisers had to be absolutely sure that all of the technology used to power various aspects of the event had to be fully sustainable.

“We have to find the balance when we make the choices at the beginning of the project, to make sure the solutions we are adopting will still be maintained at the time of the Games which is usually four years later,” Gerry Pennell, CIO of the London Olympic Games explained in a Gartner study.

“That’s why in some cases we will change the operating system versions, or something like this, because four years later they will not be maintained any more. It’s always a very interesting exercise we do at the beginning of the project.”

As well as those operations mentioned above, the IT ‘Team GB’ provide key elements of the Games such as broadcasting a huge amount of information instantly to press and broadcast organisations, real-time timing and scoring, scoreboards, websites and more. This includes data feeds which carry the biographies of individual athletes as well as news reports and integrating all of these separate components presents the biggest challenge.

The IT team works with hardware which uses identical chipsets and disks and all 900 servers and over 10,000 PCs continue to undergo extensive testing and ‘trial runs’ to ensure that everything runs smoothly when the Games actually begin. The fully functional deployment centre will employ around 3500 staff, including students and interns by the time the Games kick off.

The deployment centre will also employ network and security devices which will be used in conjunction with the rest of the technology and “will be configured and distributed to more than 90 Olympic venues”.

Whilst the games may not be strictly in the cloud, Olympic partners Atos say that the evaluation and use of new technology such as virtualisation in the 2012 Games means that the London Games will use less energy and hardware than those used in Beijing.

"We take sustainable development into account in everything we do; from the bid process to become an Olympic city, to construction of sport infrastructure, operational issues and of course information technology. We are very happy to have a partner like Atos who has exactly the same vision and the same goals,” said Jacques Rogge, President of the Olympic Committee.

Of course any business considering deployment to the cloud and the use of technologies such as GoCloud’s hosted desktops can not only rest assured that they are taking advantage of benefits such as cost-effectiveness and flexibility, but also that they are furthering company policies on environmental issues, which have become incredibly important across the globe.