by Joop Janssen
1.8 million. That’s the number of people who have already purchased tickets to see the 10,000-plus athletes compete in this year’s summer Olympics in London. For those lucky ones, the Games represent a summer vacation, but for those who have a business or do business there, and whose cash flow relies heavily on Internet transactions, the feeling may not be the same. For them, the Olympics represents an abundance of smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices churning out tweets, Facebook posts, pictures and videos, over and above the massive data volumes already generated daily by citizens of the U.K. Now double it. And then triple it.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London has publicly acknowledged on multiple occasions the risk of overloading mobile phone networks and crashing the system as crowds send pictures and messages during the Olympics. According to the Mayor, the networks will be put under maximum strain, with a projected 80 million people expected to be using their phones to contact friends, family and use social media to access and share information and multimedia. It’s important to note the possible effects this can have on the locals, since it’s not just a matter of not being able to upload a picture of your favorite athlete to Twitter. If mobile systems go down, not only will businesses be left in the dark, but there are serious safety risks to be considered. The ability to contact emergency services as needed is critically important.
On top of this, the amount of video content projected to be generated at the Games will draw massive bandwidth problems in London and around the world, as eager viewers stream content from their homes and workplaces on desktops, tablets and smartphones. The BBC alone is slated to provide live coverage from up to 24 locations besides its three main channels of edited content. Last month, the BBC predicted the footage, which will no doubt be streamed to millions of computers across Britain, will help generate a terabit (1 trillion bits) per second of traffic, or the equivalent of 60,000 people downloading a feature-length DVD-quality movie every minute.
It’s obvious that heavy content users require significant capacity increases in order to disseminate coverage of the Olympics to viewers around the world. The good news is that preparing for the summer Olympics is similar to the millennium Y2K scare, because it provides the rare luxury of advance planning. Therefore, business managers and IT experts that find themselves in this situation should consider what their options are and implement an IT plan ahead of time, to prepare their business/organization and employees for the IT overload that will occur this summer:
- Take note from the U.K. emergency services: Last month, London’s police, fire and ambulance services completed a
two-day “systems” test, which examined communication capacities of emergency
workers, different police services, government ministers and transport
officials. There’s no sense having a disaster recovery plan if you aren’t sure
it will work properly. It’s also important to note that this must be a special
test, as the scenario here is far different than, say, a natural disaster. Do
what the emergency services did and stage your plan around August 8th and 9th -
the two busiest days projected for the Olympics. If you don’t have a DR plan in
place, then you’re really going to regret it.
- Do your research: Ask your telecom
services provider what they are doing to ensure adequate network capacity,
response time and backup. At the same time, re-evaluate your own capacity,
back-ups and vendor quality-of- service commitments. It may be time for an
- If you aren’t using virtualization yet,
then now’s the time: Accelerate your virtualization strategy, especially if it
involves geographically dispersed sites, or remote or branch office
implementations. The further away from London proper you are, the less impact
you will likely experience.
- Make no assumptions, especially with the
cloud: Remember when thousands of Amazon Web Service customers when dark for
four days last April? Amazon blamed them for their lack of foresight. If only
they had spent more money spreading risk among more Amazon “availability zones”,
then the outage probably would not have hurt as much. If you use the cloud,
know with absolute certainty how extended downtime will affect you, and if
better options are open to you. Don’t assume you are safe.
- Have employees plan ahead: Plan summer holiday schedules now. Know how many staffers plan to be away and when, and what your backup plan is to your backup plan. London Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy has already made claims that he expects the city to follow the example set during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when 27 percent of workers took leave from their jobs to ease overcrowding. Additionally, he warned that a third of London residents would have to work from home to avoid overcrowding on the Tube and in buses. The more people you have working remotely, the more you spread your risk.
Another option, of course, is to close your business for three weeks and soak in the fun. After all, the Olympic Games are looking for 70,000 volunteers…
Joop Janssen is the Director of Solution Services Sales at Stratus Technologies (Maynard, MA). www.stratus.com