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September 2007 | Volume 10 / Nuber 9
Inside Networking

The First All-IP Olympic Games

On February 12, 2010, the opening ceremonies will take place for the XXI Olympic Winter Games, and Vancouver will open its doors to 5,000 Olympic Games athletes and officials from over 80 countries. Over the next 17 days, 10,000 media representatives will deliver the Olympic Games across 20 sports to audiences in 160 countries including news, features and over 10,000 hours of dedicated coverage, to 3 billion worldwide television viewers, 20 times more than the US Super Bowl. This will be followed by 10 days of Paralympic Games events. Overall, over one million visitors are expected to participate in the unfolding drama on the slopes, racing ovals and skating rinks and celebrations of the medal ceremonies at the Games venues, while a small army of over 20,000 volunteers will be working to ensure smooth operation.

The mission of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) is “to touch the soul of the nation and inspire the world by creating and delivering an extraordinary Olympic and Paralympic experience with lasting legacies.” To realize this mission, VANOC has partnered with Bell Canada, its Telecommunications Provider and Nortel, its Converged Network Equipment Provider, to plan and deliver an all-IP Games network, that must deliver always on, always secure connectivity and voice services across the Games venues, spanning 120 kilometers from greater Vancouver to the Canadian coastal mountain resort of Whistler.

Meeting “All Eyes on Vancouver” Expectations

An all-IP Games network architecture will provide a high degree of agility in meeting user and application needs, improved price/performance compared to previous hybrid approaches, and opportunities for clients that simplify user interfaces. This architecture delivers increased agility by allowing anytime, anywhere connectivity over any device, and by being highly adaptive to application traffic fluctuations.

VANOC and Bell established five key requirements for the converged network infrastructure for the most important, most visible, and most watched sporting event in the world.

• Capacity: The network spans 15 Games venues and numerous non-competitive sites (e.g. two data centers, two media centers, two Athlete villages, two ceremonial sites, VANOC headquarters). It will support in excess of 10,000 VoIP phones, and up to 40,000 wired and wireless Ethernet ports on a 10 Gbps core network.

Imagine this! Hundreds of journalists, who have just taken hundreds of 15 megapixel photos at the finish line, all rush to file their pictures and stories to their agencies ahead of their competitors.

• Reliability: Carrier class core network switches will include redundant power, common control and switching fabrics to guard against single points of failure. The network has to be up- you can’t ask the athletes to repeat their event because of a network failure!

• Redundancy: Redundant Ethernet switches deployed at each venue will support the entire capacity with sub-second failover in case of catastrophic failure of one of the switches. Non-disruptive operation must be maintained 7/24 for staff, athletes and press- the world is watching!

• Survivability: Survivability will be provided through a physically diversified access and core network. The Games must go on!

• Security: The entire networking infrastructure will provide secure logical partitioning across multiple networks and application types (e.g. VANOC ‘Games’ Applications, VANOC IT network, Bell’s Telecom Services (VoIP etc.)). Users will be able to plug into any LAN port in any of the venues and be assigned the appropriate network resources based on the credentials of their device.

Unique Challenges Addressed Through Convergence Technologies

The Games is a unique event but the requirements are very similar to those of many enterprises. The resulting architecture is also very similar to converged networks being deployed by enterprises around the world.

The infrastructure includes WiFi and switched Ethernet with PoE and QoS at each venue ‘wiring closet’, interconnected ‘across the WAN’ over an optical Ethernet core. Networking and application intelligence is centralized in dual data centers. These are the focal points for running the games and administrative applications (with interconnection to hosted web portals), are the primary Layer 3 inter-connection point between the Core and Venue converged networks, and provide secure access to the Internet and the rest of the world. They also provide centralized authentication of users, dynamic WiFi radio channel and power management, and automated load balancing across WiFi Access Points. Business-grade IP Telephony is available across all the Games venues and is delivered as a hosted service from Bell.

The infrastructure being deployed for the Games has roughly the same complexity as a medium-sized bank. But there is one big difference. What is being done for the Games is like opening all the branches on the same day, with all the systems running perfectly and with transactions balanced every night! IT

Tony Rybczynski is Director of Strategic Enterprise Technologies in Nortel, and has over 35 years experience in the application of packet network technology. Andy Platten is VP of Technical Infrastructure with VANOC and previously held a senior position at HSBC. Simon Edgett is Director Olympic Technology Development in Bell Canada and has over 14 years voice and data communications experience.

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