The 2006 FIFA World Cup IT Solution - the nerve centre of the tournament
Every four years, the eyes of the world turn to the largest sporting event on the planet - the FIFA World Cup. This summer, the spotlight is on Germany, with more than 30 billion television viewers expected to follow the four-week competition featuring 32 teams and 64 matches. Some 3 million spectators and 15,000 accredited media representatives have been flocking to the 12 venues spread around the host country, whilst FIFA has become the world's heaviest network user, placing non-stop demands on critical systems, from accreditation and security to logistics and game results.
FIFA and the German Organisation Committee needed fast and reliable systems, applications and infrastructure, both beforehand for the planning, and even more so now for the smooth running of an event as large-scale and significant as the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Everything therefore has to function perfectly - and this is where the Information Technology (IT) Solution is playing a crucial role.
Four key players
Everyone involved in any way in the FIFA World Cup - from the teams, referees, staff and volunteers who make the event possible, to the media who provide a critical window on the event to the world, and most importantly the fans visiting Germany or viewing from afar - relies on information technologies, even if these are often taken for granted nowadays. Behind the scenes, FIFA has been working with four Official Partners to provide an information technology platform known as the FIFA IT Solution. Avaya, Deutsche Telekom, Toshiba and Yahoo! are each market leaders in their respective fields and have provided the cutting-edge products and services necessary to the success of the large-scale technology implementation project that is the IT Solution. One look at the key stats confirms the complexity of the project: 40,000 network connections; 10,000 communications and network devices; 3,000 notebooks; 1,000 IT staff members and volunteers; 25 communication servers; 45 application servers, over 8,000 kilometres of temporary cabling and more than 15 terabytes of converged voice and data traffic.
Like the 32 teams who qualified for this summer's FIFA World Cup, these corporations know the value of team-work and are forming a true partnership, committed to ensuring that the tournament goes ahead exactly as planned.
"This is a synergistic relationship which works to everyone's benefit," says Michael Kelly, Head of IT Solution at FIFA. "There is real pressure on FIFA to get the project done, and far from keeping the Partners at arm's length, we rely on them to deliver the IT Solution project. It is in all of our collective interests for this project to work - after all, the FIFA World Cup is the biggest sports event in the world and can have a huge PR impact for each company .thus failure is not an option."
The toughest nut to crack has been the venues. "Every stadium is its own entity with various technical differences," says Kelly. "The IT Solution must deploy - in less than a month - a dynamic, secure, and highly reliable event network that integrates all 12 FIFA World Cup stadiums into one seamless entity. At FIFA, we rely on our Official IT Partners to help us successfully manage what is effectively 12 simultaneous large-scale implementation projects."
Almost 100 percent reliability
The IT Solution project is responsible for delivering a whole host of event-specific applications and voice/data telecommunication services via a massive private network which encompasses hundreds of locations, including the stadia, media centres, and headquarters and VIP hotels. This "event network" is built specifically to support the 2006 FIFA World Cup applications and telecommunications traffic and has to transport mission-critical data with 99.99 percent reliability.
"The network project team is co-led by two consultants, one from Avaya and one from Deutsche Telekom, who are in charge of the whole implementation of the event network," Kelly continues. They have been working together for three years now and have cross-trained one another so that they can present a unified voice to the stadiums. This spirit of teamwork has been a critical aspect of the 2006 project."
The IT Solution applications are split into two key categories. Event Management Systems (EMS) is a collection of software applications required to support the overall operation and management of the FIFA World Cup. Functions include the registration, processing and creation of credentials for key event participants, media and volunteers, transportation of VIPs attending the event, logistics planning and the tracking of valuable event assets. These services are provided by a suite of applications covering Accreditation, Volunteer/Staff Management, Protocol/Travel Management, Transportation and Materials and Logistics.
Event Information Systems (EIS) have been designed to capture FIFA World Cup data, including match results, statistics and media-specific information. EIS includes the 'Media Channel' - a media information sub-site provided by Yahoo! and integrated within the FIFAworldcup.com platform - and the Results system, which captures match information and statistics in real-time for use by the television host broadcaster, FIFAworldcup.com and other FIFA information properties.
Avaya: converged performance
As official convergence communication provider, Avaya is providing the data networking components, services and software needed to power the event network, and is responsible for implementing and managing the voice and data network infrastructure and software to meet the stringent availability requirements of the FIFA World Cup. The company is also working together with Deutsche Telekom in the implementation, monitoring and overall management of the event network.
"This is our most visible current project," explains Doug Gardner, Managing Director of Avaya's FIFA World Cup Technical Programme. "It's a great showcase for us, which in turn opens up new business opportunities since it shows our longevity - if we can afford to be a FIFA World Cup Partner, then we can also be a long-term partner to others."
This is the second time that FIFA has implemented a converged communications network for football's biggest tournament based on Avaya technologies. A converged network merges traditional data and telephony networks onto a single communications platform, providing greater communications services as well as voice-over IP - the ability to make telephone calls over the Internet.
"The reason we originally became involved in the FIFA World Cup was that after being spun off from Lucent Technologies, we saw it as both a branding opportunity and an internal morale-booster," Doug continues. "It is the largest sporting property in the world, so Avaya is very proud to be a part of it. It's also been very good for raising our global profile, as almost everyone's passionate about the FIFA World Cup."
Avaya is providing the software, media and communication gateways and servers that make converged networks possible. Additionally, Avaya wireless-LAN equipment is being widely used during the tournament to extend the reach of the IT infrastructure for event staff and other participants requiring flexible, mobile network connectivity. Of course, human resources are also important and Avaya is deploying 250 full-time employees throughout the competition.
Avaya test laboratory in Frankfurt
The technical heart of all these application was put through its paces for four months at Avaya's test laboratory in Frankfurt, an impressive and efficient facility which featured the core components and control panels that have actually been implemented in all twelve stadiums. The various devices used throughout the venues were all tested here, with every conceivable (and inconceivable) situation simulated to make sure that this advanced technology had a few warm-up matches before the tournament began - after all, the FIFA World Cup network must be able to cope with the kind of demands imposed by multinational corporations with complex processes and high levels of time pressure.
Deutsche Telekom: Europe's star player
Via its T-Com and T-Systems operating units, Deutsche Telekom is providing the telecommunications and systems integration services and products needed to drive event operations. T-Com forms the backbone of the FIFA IT Solution wide-area network, supplying all of the telecommunications services to support the data and telephony needs of the FIFA World Cup as well as the networking experts to work together with Avaya to design, plan and build the event network.
Deutsche Telekom's task has been to ensure that each location is connected using an expandable infrastructure to meet FIFA's changing needs. This was accomplished using the IntraSelect Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) platform, with full redundancy to achieve near 100% availability during the event. The platform provided FIFA with the flexibility to choose the technology most suitable for connecting each location, and enabled the appropriate prioritization of data and voice transmissions, so that information is always transmitted within the allotted timeframe.
Stepping up to the next level
"Since the FIFA World Cup is important for Germany, it's also important for major German companies. It was a must that we were involved," says Thomas Wolter, T-Systems Enterprise Services' Executive Vice President of Systems Integration. Deutsche Telekom is already a major IT player in the German event market, providing event management systems, access and security as well as network solutions to major professional sports clubs. Being involved in the FIFA World Cup, with its massive appeal to potential customers around the world, takes them to the next level. "The tournament is pushing market awareness about Deutsche Telekom as an IT provider in Germany and also helping transport the brand abroad," Thomas added.
The T-Systems division of the company is providing support services for the event network, systems integration and IT operations at all venues as well as the central IT Command Centre, and is also hosting all IT Solution applications at a highly secure data centre located in Germany. This 'fortress' is acting as the nerve centre for the entire FIFA IT Solution, housing the servers that support the Event Management and Event Information Systems.
Toshiba - helping people keep on the move
In recent years, computer technology has evolved tremendously, and the FIFA World Cup is certainly no exception. In 2002, 90% of the computers used at the FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan were desktops. Four years on, FIFA exclusively uses Toshiba Tecra notebooks - three thousand of them, in fact - enabling the user community to perform their day-to-day activities using leading edge technologies and quality tools. All of those involved with the running of the tournament thus have access to information, statistics, match data and online reports via their personal Toshiba notebook PCs - a boon for FIFA and German Organising Committee employees who are travelling between the twelve host cities. This technology is also of course being put to good use by the thousands of press representatives at the stadium Media Centres. The Tecra notebooks further enhance the mobile working experience through integrated Toshiba EasyGuard technologies, which deliver seamless connectivity, improved data security and superior system protection.
Yahoo! brings the media closer to the action
Through Yahoo!'s leading Internet solutions, the press have all the information that they need at their fingertips. Yahoo! has developed the Media Channel - the virtual media centre of the 2006 FIFA World Cup which is available to the 15,000 accredited press representatives working at the event. As the Official Website Services Provider of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Yahoo! has also created the official website, FIFAworldcup.com. The Media Channel and FIFAworldcup.com has been made available via Internet Corners at the International Broadcast Centre in Munich and at the Stadium Media Centres at each of the 12 venues.
The unsung heroes
Every team, every squad, every tournament has its unsung heroes - the players or officials in the background who rarely see the limelight but without whom, everything would falter. FIFA's four Official IT Partners are happy to play this role, safe in the knowledge that their teamwork and cooperation, and above all their expertise and experience, are playing an integral part in making this summer's FIFA World Cup an overwhelming success. They may not always be front and centre, but thanks to Avaya, Deutsche Telekom, Toshiba and Yahoo! and all their hard work, before, during and after the event, the tournament's headlines are all about glory, and not about passes going astray.