World’s ‘Largest Guest Network’ To Power Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

Sochi Winter Olympics Russia stadium © Anna Martynova Shutterstock

Avaya tells TechWeekEurope about its role in creating the network for Sochi 2014

Avaya says the network it has built for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games is “the world’s largest guest network”, supporting 40,000 athletes, reporters and administrators across all competition venues, athletes’ village and media and broadcast centres.

The company was responsible for the network infrastructure at the last Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010 and says it has noticed a number of changing trends for Sochi, mainly an increase in wireless connections and mobile devices as well as greater demands from users.

“User expectations are probably the big difference,” Dean Frohwerk, Avaya Olympic Architecture Solution Leader, who explains to TechWeekEurope that whereas wired connections in Vancouver in 2010, he expects the opposite in Sochi, with around 120,000 devices connected to the network.

Virtual networks

Sochi winter olympics logo © Martynova Anna Shutterstock

Avaya’s network runs across all venues in two main areas – the coastal cluster and the mountain cluster – with the two clusters acting as spokes connected by a 54Tbps backbone. Around 90km of fibre has been laid at the venues and there are 2,500 wireless access points available.

“We make the whole Olympic area look like a data centre fabric,” says Frohwerk. “What’s really changed from Vancouver is we’re able to virtualise.”

Seven virtual networks operate on top of the main infrastructure, one each for high-definition video, network management, the controlling of games devices, media, voice, Wi-Fi access and overall administration.

“We’ve changed it from a physical network to an application,” he adds, explaining that for the first time at an Olympics, the network has been trusted to use IPTV streams to provide video to all 1,500 screens at the venues.

Guest Network

While there have only been between 1,000 and 2,000 people using the network in the lead-up to the games, usage has exploded since the sporting world descended on Sochi in the past week, meaning that Avaya has been under pressure to get things right the first time.

“We have no chance to train users so you have to have a network that’s really adaptable so you can just come on, authenticate and get onto the right networks for the right services and be seamless,” says Frohwerk.

Additionally, athletes and journalists will be able to access the Wi-Fi network free of charge as billing them is just too difficult.

But what if something goes wrong? BT, which supplied the networks at London 2012, used social networks to look for problems with infrastructure, but Avaya hopes it can spot faults as soon as they happen.

“We really shouldn’t have to wait for users to tell us about problems,” he says, claiming the firms Visualisation Performance and Fault Manager should identify any issues. “Proactive rather than reactive is our approach.”

Blank canvas

Winter Olympics © AtosCosting an estimated £30 billion, Sochi 2014 is the most expensive Olympics of all time, and much of the infrastructure for Russia’s 52nd largest city has had to be built from scratch – something which has had presented Avaya with some unique challenges.

“One of the reasons the  Russians chose Sochi [as a venue for the Winter Olympics], is that they’re looking to build it out as a mountain resort, a major sports resort – F1 and World Cup events will be there,” says Frohwerk. “Sochi was a telecom greenfield for us. We had a free hand and didn’t have to worry about working with legacy systems, but we also had to wait for buildings to be built and it was an infrastructure greenfield too.

“We were wanting to do telecoms tasks, but we were waiting for roads to be built or sewers to be placed, so it was three big challenges all at once, adding extra complexity, but it’s been pulled off.”

Legacy for Sochi

It’s this desire to make Sochi a sports resort means that much of the network infrastructure will stay in place.

“A lot of what we do at every Olympics, and London will have been the same, is that we build overlay networks and we also build what we refer to as legacy networks,” he adds. “In Sochi, it’s been about 50-50. We’ve done just as much business with the organising committee as part of our sponsorship as we have done with the local investors who built the legacy there.”

Frohwerk says there have been discussions with Formula One, which has its own networking deal with Tata Communications, which plans to hold the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

“The network will be in place for Formula One,” he says. “We’re a global company so our Moscow office has been dealing with them for some time.”

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