Avaya deploys Special Olympics data network

10 Jun 2003

Cabling manufacturer Avaya is close to completing a major data network for the 2003 Special Olympics that takes in more than 150 locations throughout Ireland. The infrastructure will amount to some 20 miles worth of cable being laid around the country.

The 2003 Special Olympics, which kick off later this month, will mark the first occasion that the games have taken place outside the US. The events will see more than 7,000 athletes arrive in Ireland to take part in sports in more than 52 venues throughout the country.

It will be Avaya’s job to provide 24×7, high speed up-to-the-second data connectivity to these 52 venues as well as data access to accommodation in 162 Irish towns, 1,500 international journalists and hundreds of medical professionals. The network will also be used to manage logistics and services for the athletes and their 30,000 volunteers.

According to Avaya country manager Wally Blennerhasset, the role of deploying data connectivity for the Special Olympics came by virtue of the fact that Avaya is the main infrastructure provider for the main Olympics and is currently gearing up to provide infrastructure for the Winter Olympics, the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the recent FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan.

The company is understood to have been planning the mostly-temporary network for the past 18 months and the first physical deployments began back in October. However, according to Dan Hughes, network manager for the Special Olympics, much of the work has taken place over the past six week and that the real job of putting in the final installations of computers, printers, routers and patchcords will happen in the final two weeks before the games commence. “We have entire pallets loaded with equipment and cabling for particular locations sitting in warehouses waiting to be installed. Because of the rigid timing of final deployment we had to write our own logistics application especially for the project,” Hughes said.

According to Hughes, some 400 IT professionals from throughout the industry in Ireland have volunteered to manage the IT systems 24 hours a day. “They will provide IT and telecoms support and will on average manage at least three PCs each,” Hughes said.

“The main applications,” he continued, “are the central games management system which is owned by the Special Olympic Games body, a medical management system that will be accessed by medics and GPs around the country and a media system for 1,500 news professionals.

“Some of the applications have been created especially for the occasion, such as the logistics system. Another major one is the medical records system that will allow GPs using a variety of PCs to access records using a Citrix thin client platform,” Hughes explained.

However, unlike the US, where the games can be conducted at modern universities with state-of-the-art facilities, networks and accommodation, the mixture of old and new buildings in Ireland presented a major problem to Avaya in deploying its 20-miles worth of OM3-type Category 6 cabling. “Many of the accommodation venues were old Georgian buildings with thick walls, whereas some buildings, such as the refurbished Croke Park, were very easy to work with,” Hughes said.

The majority of the cabling deployment was handled via Avaya’s local partner Kedington. Eircom will handle the various local area networks as part of a wide area network (WAN) system that will be managed at a state-of-the-art data centre. “The entire infrastructure is completely backed up,” Hughes explained. “Results from various games will be coming in every 20 seconds so we cannot afford any downtime or any possible failure.”

“The biggest challenge,” Hughes continued, “is that for many of the major venues, particularly at universities where exams are still taking place, we cannot access until a week or two before the games. In some cases we won’t be able to deploy technology at a location until two days before the games kick off on 22 June.”

Hughes concluded that at several venues, the data network will be running applications over fibre optic cabling at speeds of up to 10Gbps.

Avaya employs 230 people at its Bray manufacturing facility, which is also home to its sales headquarters for the EMEA region. The operation makes all of the company’s structured cabling products for Europe.

By John Kennedy