Network Management and the Winter Olympics: Going for Gold

February 04, 2014

"While most of the people descending on Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics will be interested in catching events and perhaps rubbing elbows with a medalist or two, a small group will be working to keep them all connected. Network management on this scale is a relatively new phenomenon for the Winter Olympics, even if it seems like the unconnected major sporting event is a relic of the past. An Avaya-constructed network designed to handle 54 terabits per second of traffic will be put to the test when the Games begin on Feb. 7.

Although Sochi boasts a population of 350,000 and is a popular spot for Russian tourists, two massive new construction projects - the Olympic Village in Sochi and a compound of Alpine skiing venues in the close-by Krasnaya Polyana mountain range - were on areas with virtually no network and telecom infrastructure, according to Network World. International telecom provider Avaya was tapped to implement IT infrastructure, a task that turned out to be much more complicated than the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which Avaya also worked on. For starters, the 54 Tbps network dwarfed Vancouver's, which provided 4 Tbps of bandwidth based on a ratio of one device per person.

""As for modern IT infrastructure? There was none to speak of. We have really had to start from scratch, right down to the laying of conduit before we could even begin installing fiber and cabling,"" stated Dean Frohwerk, Avaya's chief network architect, according to the source. ""In Vancouver, we only had to provision one device per user. This means that we really have to have the capability to support up to 120,000 users on the Sochi Wi-Fi network, without issues or interruptions.""

Expected wireless demand is compounded by the need to deliver 30 IPTV dedicated high definition channels over its converged network, Network World reported. There will be five virtual SSID-based networks in Sochi, divided among athletes, two for media, Olympics staff and dignitaries. Each group will get its own password.

Avoiding Downtime at the Games
Avaya, which has been working on the project for the last two years, is aware of the high requirements for the Games. With so much riding on timeliness, speed and accuracy, there is no room for downtime, Frohwerk wrote in a piece for TechRadar.

""When we first started planning the network, we knew that there is no tolerance for network downtime at the Olympic Games,"" Frohwerk wrote. ""From the outset we have been dealing in super-resiliency and flexibility. For example, with traditional networking technologies, it is not uncommon for the network to re-converge in 1-2 seconds.""

In order to ensure redundancy and adequate support, Avaya will rely on two Technical Operations Center and Data Center compounds - a primary one in Adler, which is about 17 miles south of Sochi, and secondary one at the Sochi Olympic Park, 10 miles northwest of the main Games site. The secondary one will be kept ready and on standby to avoid any break in the action.

Much of the difficulty surrounding the project is the fact that there are simply many unknowns. Avaya will not know how successful they were until the Olympics actually starts and the network balloons from zero to 40,000 users in seconds."



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    "While most of the people descending on Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics will be interested in catching events and perhaps rubbing elbows with a medalist or two, a small group will be working to keep them all connected. Network management on this scale is a relatively new phenomenon ...