London 2012: Tech systems face their most critical hurdle

The IT system underpinning the London Olympics will undergo a major test next week.

The IT infrastructure underpinning the London 2012 Olympics is about to go through its most critical set of tests ahead of the Games opening.

Next week the Olympic IT system will be put through Technical Rehearsal 2, which aims to put the infrastructure to the test against a series of scenarios.

The technical rehearsal will simulate running the three busiest days of the Olympics, using data from previous events.

Patrick Adiba, executive vice president in charge of the Olympics at IT company Atos which is leading the integration, explained: "The data will be flowing through the systems as if the athletes were competing."

Part of the test involves simulating problems that the IT teams at the Olympic venues and in the Technology Operations Centre will have to deal with. "We inject scenarios that are an order of magnitude bigger than real life to see how people respond to maximum stress situations," Adiba said.

"We started the project a little more than four years ago and today we are at a critical milestone," he said.

The Olympic IT infrastructure is significant in scale: as well as vital systems such as the core games management system, which Adiba dubbed "the ERP of the Games", it also includes 900 servers, 9,500 PCs as well as 3,500 IT staff at peak, including 80 IT managers and assistants in the Olympic venues.

"It's the only project that has to start on a given date and you know it seven years in advance. The games cannot be delayed by our technology," he told TechRepublic.

He said there are between two and four levels of redundancy built into the infrastructure, depending on how vital the system is.

"You cannot rerun the 100 metres because we are not ready. If the Games are running, we have to be able to operate," he added.

Despite the extremely high profile of the Games, which means they are likely to attract the attention of hackers, Adiba said malicious attacks were not the biggest security priority, even though the Games systems are likely to register16 million events every day.

Events could range from an attack to someone simply entering the wrong password.

"Our role is to protect the system, whether it's a hacker or someone who makes a mistake. We just want to stop the consequences of the event," he said.

"The main concern is that we preserve the integrity of the data and the results. The big focus of IT is not hackers. Of course we are protecting the systems but a lot of our focus is on data integrity."

Adiba said these millions of events are filtered down so security can act on the ones that are relevant.

"We have a model of the flow of information, so when something is abnormal we detect that as a problem - like a results system active at 3am. We don't trace the source of the issue because we don't have time and it's not our issue."

By Steve Ranger

Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic. An award-winning journalist, Steve writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture, and regularly appears on TV and radio discussing tech issues. Previously he was th...