While network performance is the name of the game

While network performance is the name of the game

Ozzy Osbourne’s appearance with Black Sabbath at the closing ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games was a surprise. That he ended his band’s most famous hit with great fanfare, “Birmingham Forever!” Some more were so. But it was a most fitting way for one of the city’s most famous boys to bring down the curtain on an event whose success and sheer joie de vivre might as well have been a surprise.

But less surprising was the way the Games were run so efficiently, so that the talk was of the athletes and rock stars and not the underlying infrastructure, especially the IT network.

In fact, the preparations made to ensure the efficient operation of the IT infrastructure are matched by any sportsperson across the Commonwealth. Unlike other recent events such as the 2020 Olympics and the Euro 2020 football final, both of which were delayed by a year due to Covid, Birmingham 2022 took place on schedule but during preparation and planning, the impact of the pandemic was on-going.

For Aruba, the Games’ official technology supplier and network partner, the project to ensure the smooth running of the event’s IT infrastructure was unlike any the company had seen. Covid compressed many deadlines and created its own challenges, one of which was whether the event was actually going to happen. A request for proposal to supply the Games was issued nearly three years ago, with Aruba working for two and a half years to win the contract and outline initial specifications.

With technology playing an increasingly important role in the fan experience at sporting events, the 2022 Commonwealth Games and Aruba have made a bold commitment to deliver a more connected, more inclusive advanced network infrastructure with a more engaging experience than ever before. In addition, they have pledged to support the development of a digital technology foundation that extends beyond the games’ lifecycle.

Almost in the spirit of Black Sabbath’s biggest hit, John Moger, senior director of EMEA marketing for Aruba UK and Ireland, said organizers were confused about another resurgence of the coronavirus and how it might affect planning, which itself was becoming a very ongoing one. banquet

“We started the conversation right before Covid hit and then things went quiet for a while,” says Moger. “And then, thankfully, the Games were able to operate, with special arrangements from the government to continue to operate them. So, as one of the partners, they were able to make our work subject to pretty strict rules around how they operate within a facility.

“We’ve spent a lot of time planning what we’re connecting and who we’re connecting, what their needs will be up front when the Games are going to happen. Obviously, as technology moves forward, the obvious asks [in the project] Also go ahead. You know, everybody brings a new generation of what you need and wants to push more data.”

A sprint that turned into a super sprint

Simon Wilson, chief technology officer for Aruba UK and Ireland, added: “Usually a host city has about six years until these days, but we’ve had less than four and really accelerated in the last two and a half. So you know, it’s a marathon that turns into a sprint. , which is a favorite word and it’s completely true. The thing is, it turned into a sprint that turned into a super sprint, because we only got very late access to some venues, for example, Edgbaston. [cricket ground] Just a few days before the opening ceremony.

“And it happened only once the organizing committee [OC] Could really get in there and start doing their thing. Obviously, we depended on a lot of what they built to connect with us and provide services, so it was an accelerated timeline, especially towards the end.”

But the story really begins for Aruba as to why it got involved and what really drew it to the project in the first place. The company recognizes that while it is indeed prestigious to support a Commonwealth Games, it also means a lot of commitment, and this comes from a company that has worked on sporting venues such as the Ryder Cup and revamped Tottenham Hotspur. Football field.

What is said to set Birmingham 2022 apart is the variety and legacy of experiences following the event, using network deployment as an engine to drive local community engagement.

While network performance is the name of the game
Media coverage of the Commonwealth Games depends on an efficient IT infrastructure

But the main task at hand was connecting the games. Linking coaches and athletes, the OC, the governing body around the world – Birmingham 2022 had teams from 72 federations – plus the media, anti-doping agents and, perhaps most importantly, the scoring, results and timing infrastructure.

“My main focus area was to ensure that Longines [the official timekeeper of the Games], get what they do where they need to go without any problems,” says Wilson. “As part of the run-up to the Games, they went through some local technical drills, which are like paper exercises for the boardroom, and then took a technical drill, taking as much space as they could. And then playing in real situations.

“So I asked a technical guide to go and unplug both connections. WAN circuit. They were checking when the people at the venue noticed it, and whether the people at head office, who were supposed to monitor this sort of thing, noticed it too. There are only a few things that can stop a game, and one of them is the impact on results, timing and scoring. And, of course, we’re providing information for broadcast media, such as commentators’ information systems.

Like 20 simultaneous network refresh projects

“It’s been a big challenge, no question. It’s like 20 simultaneous network refresh projects. We’re going into existing spaces, and even though we’re not refreshing existing technologies there, we’re transitioning into new spaces. [networking] Technology. And so, in some venues, we have to sit side by side and coexist in others, where they are closing. [old tech] When we come to certain parts of the venue.

“So it’s the same with these refresh projects – new cabling required fiber WAN circuits because many venues didn’t have the quality of WAN connectivity needed for the games. Many WAN circuits and different types of routing sites were active to ensure that they were up to scratch as part of the legacy.”

As every IT and network manager knows, technology is moving fast. And for Birmingham 2022, compared to other games of its kind, the equipment deployed was quite different from the traditional type. Aruba wired and wireless technologies and infrastructure that were used five or six years ago are now based on the cloud – and for good operational and economic reasons.

“Moving to the cloud requires you to ensure you have high-performance, resilient network connectivity”

Simon Wilson, Aruba

Until now, the Commonwealth Games were standalone projects. An OC used to contract service for a particular country and the deployment stopped when the Games ended. The Commonwealth Games wanted to simplify the process of organizing the next event and began the process of multi-year contracts with suppliers, meaning Aruba preferred bidding for the next two games.

That means taking the learnings and knowledge from one game – which will be in Victoria, Australia – in four years, to make things easier. Although Aruba added innovation for the first time for Birmingham 2022 and the OC had a separate innovation budget, they did not want to own any assets such as datacentres. This means putting as much as possible in the cloud – specifically, hosting platforms including AWS and Google Cloud.

Wilson says that was important to Aruba. “Here [requirement] drives the technology decisions for us because, historically, Aruba has been an on-premise technology company,” he says. “So now, obviously, we felt that the cloud-first strategy was another thing that interested us in our technology demonstration project. Obviously, moving to the cloud requires you to make sure you have a high-performance, resilient network connection. If we lose connection to the cloud, you have to survive.

“But if everything is in the cloud, is there a need for some mobility locally? Can people use it? We wanted to confirm that this was the case for us. To make it quick and easy to set up, we’ve leveraged Aruba Central, our cloud-based network management and monitoring procedure.”

This has allowed wireless experts to do all the setup using an AIOps system as a mechanism to find things that are going wrong with the network or things that need or may need attention – a capability that not only saves time, but Systems will ensure better running.

Another interesting issue is with the Wi-Fi service provided to the games team. Everyone wants and expects wireless connectivity these days, and sports teams are no exception. To make room for wireless connectivity, Aruba built systems based on Wi-Fi 6 and, as you’d expect, had to overcome many hurdles to make the deployment work. All of them presented challenges for different reasons, Wilson said.

“People who already have a strong Wi-Fi infrastructure used an older spectrum,” he says. “So you’ve got existing providers using the spectrum and some federations coming up with their own Wi-Fi gear. They’ve got a pretty strong spectrum management team and parties who want to use routers there can request spectrum allocations through Ofcom.

“But not everyone did. Some people just come back and use their stuff and you might have to turn it off because you can’t affect other services in the game, especially results, timing and scoring because someone turned on their Wi-Fi channel. There are places where our wireless network is the only one there, which means we need to build an infrastructure that understands that the public wants to connect to our Wi-Fi, so we need to make sure it’s robust enough to handle that. . Something.

“Everybody wants to come to us because our goal is not to connect the public — it’s to connect the family of games, which is the scoring system of all those teams, for example. So we’re not offering any public Wi-Fi. We have to make sure that the network rejects those requests. Strong enough to be able to, and yet we can confirm [right] Service to people.

Like 20 small SMEs

“Our Wi-Fi technology can be deployed in a variety of architectures. It’s a huge project – about 1,000 access points spread across 20 locations. So, in other words, from a scale perspective, it’s like 20 small SMEs.”

While Aruba was able to complete its work so that the technology was ready in time for the Games’ opening ceremony, that doesn’t mean that, in a perfect world, it wouldn’t have wanted more time. “More time, because then there would be less pressure on the team,” Wilson said. “We would have liked more time to do more testing. There is never enough time for the exam, but the only certainty is that you know when it is going to start. You know the sports schedule will continue and we have to be ready, so we’ve made sure we are.

“But there are other considerations, such as how much it costs the OC to get exclusive rights to a location, and it is very expensive to have exclusive rights. So you have to decide how soon you’ll use it exclusively, and how much money you’ll spend on it versus how long it will take to deploy. So it’s a big balancing act for the OC.

And deal with it as it actually did – and with tyranny. Memories of the Commonwealth Games will not only be marked by a host of top-class performances on the track and in the pool, but also by the impressive and varied creativity displayed in the opening and closing ceremonies and the IT infrastructure of the event. Sure didn’t miss a beat. In short, Birmingham 2022 rocked – just ask Ozzy.

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