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London 2012: the Olympic Network (part one)

Anticipation of the upcoming summer Olympic Games has already lifted my spirits. This week I received an invitation from Andrew Millar, the British Consul General in Houston, Texas – it’s an opportunity to attend a viewing party for the opening ceremony later this month. I’m really looking forward to that event.

You may recall that in my last story, the ICT Infrastructure Investment, I shared some of the interesting high-level details about economic outcomes and seven of the the key principles that were used to develop the overall ICT solution.

Now I’ll start to outline the technical building blocks of the BT communication services deployment. Once again, I’m sharing a summary of insight that was previously published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Information and Communications sector.

As you’ll see, the London 2012 Olympics network model delivers both a scalable and flexible foundation on which resilient and secure communication services are built. Once you’re able to comprehend the full depth and breadth of this huge undertaking, it should give you an appreciation for all the behind-the-scenes investment that will make this “the most connected sporting event the world has ever seen.”

The Olympic Network Core Mesh

In essence, the BT managed network core will provide connectivity between the Olympic Park and various other venues to the central Points of Presence (PoPs) — which in turn control connectivity between all venues and from the Olympic estate to the outside world.

At the heart of the core network are pairs of switches using Cisco’s virtual switching system (VSS) technology in a mesh configuration. I won’t cover the details of the actual switches – the theme of these stories is not really about Cisco per se, but more about what we make possible.

The fault-tolerant configuration adopts virtualization techniques to provide uninterrupted service – i.e., there is a back-up, in the event of failure of any of the separately-routed communications systems.

Moreover, it’s designed so that each VSS pair in the mesh appears as a single logical switch capable of surviving hardware or circuit failure within its constituent systems.

The Wide Area Network (WAN)

The wide area network transmission infrastructure is based on Ethernet technologies (see above diagram), primarily for the inherent low cost and high capacity. Within the Olympic Park, each venue is provided with separate dark fiber routes back to the on-park PoPs.

Keep in mind, there’s likely going to be a very significant amount of multimedia traffic that will travel across the various interconnection hubs within this multifaceted network.

It’s estimated that 14 of the Olympic venue sites will produce up to 20 Gbps of traffic.

There are several configuration options used for connecting off-Olympic Park venues — with around 50 of these off-site locations, producing a potential peak aggregate traffic of an additional 40 Gbps.

Each Olympic competition venue has separate Ethernet access bearers to each PoP, providing one of the two available options – either 1 Gbps Ethernet Access Direct (EAD), or 10 Gbps Optical Spectrum Access (OSA) capacity.

The Local Area Networks (LAN)

The readily available local area network infrastructure is designed to distribute most of the end-user services at each venue — with the exception of the Community Area TV (CATV) services, which is delivered via co-axial cabling within each venue.

Other HD audio quality communications services will be delivered directly from the local BT public network exchange site.

BT wireless network services provide access to the internet for accredited users — including Olympic “rate card” customers, and for the Olympic staff workforce that will be based at the various venue locations. Wireless services will also support the offload of data traffic from the Olympic Mobile network.

Secure Wi-Fi access will be provided – via traffic tunneling to the core service blocks at the PoPs — in all the likely informal work locations, such as facility conference rooms, where wired access may be limited or otherwise unavailable.

The Continuing Olympic Network Story

If any these technical terms are unfamiliar to you, and you would like to learn more, then I recommend the beginning sections of the “Internetworking Technology Handbook.”

If you’re wondering how this foundation infrastructure will be applied as a cohesive intelligent network, offering internet services, unified communication services and broadcast media services, then you’ll want to read my next story on this topic.

In the meantime, here’s a short video of the Olympic Park surroundings. Enjoy!

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