It wasn’t only the athletes that needed to break records at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. So did the Organizing Committee running the largest technology infrastructure—by almost any measure—in support of those games. To do so, the Committee migrated the venue-based systems from UNIX to Microsoft® technologies. The infrastructure ran with 100 percent uptime and did so at lower overall cost than the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
The use of technology is nothing new for the Olympic Games: archeological evidence suggests that the Olympic Games used mechanical starting gates almost 2,700 years ago.
||Failure wasn’t an option for the Olympics technology, because the world was watching us. And Microsoft helped us to succeed.
Deputy Director of Technology Department, Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad
The use of technology has grown since then, of course, and not just because technology has advanced beyond the level of mechanical gates. Today’s Olympic Games could hardly be carried out without a massive information infrastructure. At the Games of the XXIX Olympiad—held in Beijing in 2008—the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games had to organize 17 days of competition including 28 sports and 302 events held across 39 venues in seven cities.
The Committee had to issue and manage more than 350,000 accreditations covering 70,000 volunteers, 11,400 athletes from 204 countries, 21,600 registered journalists, 2,300 members of the various Olympics committees, and more. More than nine million spectators turned out for what became the largest Olympic Games ever.
The technology that had supported the venue information systems in recent games—in Salt Lake City in 2002, Athens in 2004, and Torino in 2006—had been based on the Sun Solaris version of the UNIX operating system and Java-based applications.
But for the Beijing Games, the Committee faced larger versions of the challenges that had faced previous committees. The more massive Games required a larger technology infrastructure than had been used before and, hence, a more effective way to manage that infrastructure. Maintaining reliability, availability, and security would be more challenging. And despite the larger challenges facing the Committee—or, perhaps, because of those larger challenges—the Committee wanted a more cost-effective solution than had satisfied previous committees.
To help meet these challenges, the Committee turned to Atos Origin, the worldwide IT partner of the Olympic Games since 2002. As the company that had both met the previous IT challenges of the Games and developed the UNIX solutions, it was best positioned to help design, build, and manage the solution for the largest Olympic Games ever.
To reduce the costs of the technology infrastructure, while ensuring that it could meet the unprecedented demands being placed on it, Atos Origin proposed that venue-based components of the infrastructure be migrated from UNIX to the Microsoft® application platform, including the Windows Server® 2003 operating system, with Intel-based hardware from Lenovo.
Those on-site components were the Games Management Systems that supported the planning and operations of the Games, and the Information Diffusion Systems that included both Internet-based and intranet-based information systems. The Games Management Systems handled accreditation, transportation, the athlete qualification system, the medical system, protocol system, and the staffing information system. The Information Diffusion Systems included a wireless intranet with information for all accredited participants in English, French, and Chinese; a commentator information system for media broadcasters; an Internet data feed to the official Web site; and a results data feed to worldwide news agencies.
With so much information in these systems and so many people accessing them, one of the distinctive challenges facing Atos Origin and the Committee was how to bring the right information to the right people at the right time. To do so, Atos Origin and the Committee decided to add enterprise search capability, which the systems didn’t have before. They first considered the Google Appliance, but then adopted Enterprise Search in Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007, both to reduce costs and to deliver better search performance. The organizations also migrated Linux-based e-mail to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007.
The solution was managed by a range of Microsoft technologies, including Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 and System Center Operations Manager 2007. The Microsoft Identity Integration Server was used to coordinate the vast challenge of ensuring user authentication and role-based access to authorized resources.
Thanks to the migration from UNIX to the Microsoft application platform for its venue-based information systems, the Committee helped to ensure the success of the Beijing Games—the world’s largest-ever Olympic Games.
The Microsoft software–based system successfully ran 1,000 computer servers, 10,000 desktop and laptop computers, 4,000 printers, and 5,000 terminals. Reliability of this infrastructure was essential, since the Games had to run for the scheduled 17 days, and delays could not be countenanced—and Microsoft System Center technology delivered. Technicians were able to monitor, troubleshoot, and update the portion of the infrastructure managed by Microsoft software from a central location. And that infrastructure ran without any unplanned downtime, for an uptime rating of 100 percent.
The Information Systems supported 300,000 public Web pages, up 600 percent from the 50,000 pages supported for the 2004 Games. Those pages were updated as frequently as every few hours.
“Failure wasn’t an option for the Olympics technology, because the world was watching us,” says Hou Xinyi, Deputy Director of Technology Department, Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. “And Microsoft helped us to succeed.”
While supporting more users, more computers, more Web pages, more sports, and more events than any previous Olympic Games, the Microsoft infrastructure not only met these challenges but did so more cost-effectively than previous infrastructures.
Atos Origin will have the opportunity to repeat this success. The International Olympics Committee has already retained Atos Origin to manage the 2010 Games in Vancouver and the 2012 Games in London.