Beijing starts IT testing for Olympics

Testing gets under way a full year before the event opens, with 500 worst-case scenarios to be rehearsed.

Tests on the IT infrastructure behind the Beijing 2008 Olympics begin this month, a full year before the event opens on August 8, 2008.

The systems architecture for Beijing 2008 was finalized last month by Atos Origin, the main IT supplier for the games. And all the facilities--a PC factory, data center, integration lab and technology operation center--are now operational.

An IT team of around 3,500 people, which includes 2,500 volunteers, will be responsible for 10,000 PCs, 1,000 servers, a games information system and an information diffusion system across seven cities.

"You have one chance to get it right. There is no second chance," said Guillaume Huard, sales and marketing director for the Olympics and major events at Atos Origin. "Testing is a big component. You don't want to affect the competition in any way. The testing is intense and takes more than a year."

The testing will include a run-through of 500 possible worst-case scenarios, rehearsing every situation that could go wrong, including virus infections and cables being cut, but Huard said the biggest threat is still an internal one.

"We have had people trying to print their own accreditation badges," he said, "or trying to find their way around the network when they shouldn't."

To minimize risks, all the Olympic volunteers--IT and non-IT--go through rigorous police background checks. In Beijing there will be a total of 70,000 volunteers, filtered down from around 5 million applications.

The reliability required for the Olympic Games is so high that there is little new or cutting-edge technology used.

"You have to freeze your solution quite a long time before the event," Huard said. "We are not going for cutting-edge and bleeding-edge technology. It has to be mature, proven, tested technology."

There are currently 100 IT staff members in Beijing, three-fourths of whom are Chinese. Testing begins this month for IT supporting 12 Olympics events in 11 different venues. Work on the IT infrastructure for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics is also already under way, and work on the London 2012 IT systems will begin after Beijing, in November 2008.

Andy McCue of Silicon.com reported from London.

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