Update: Gold Medal for Olympics IT Team
The final gold medal awarded at the Salt Lake City Olympics goes to the SchlumbergerSema staff that handled the IT infrastructure. And, unlike figure skating, there’s no controversy.
In fact, it was an easy decision, based on the nearly error-free performance
of the team and equipment throughout the 14-day Winter Olympics that ended
Feb. 24. See “An
Olympic IT Challenge
” in the March 2002 issue.
“We had no problems, which was phenomenal. It was absolutely unbelievable,”
said MCSE Scott Seppich, the manager of NT and SQL systems for the Games.
“With the media attention, we expected something to come out, some kind
But there were none of any consequence, agreed Jason Durrant, director
of system integration testing. “It was very much a success and exceeded
my personal expectations.”
Given the size of the network—4,000 Gateway PC clients running NT Workstation
and 225 NT 4.0 servers, along with 145 Unix boxes—it sounds almost too
good to be true.
Even Durrant admits, “It’s hard, because we want to give you something
that went wrong,” for fear of painting an impossibly rosy picture that
Seppich says the IT team’s lack of media coverage is itself a sign of
the job they did. “In technology, if nobody’s talking about you, it means
you were successful.”
A major portion of the credit goes to the three years of planning that
went into the project, and the fact that they’d been running the network
for more than five months before Apolo Anton Ohno set a skate on the ice.
“We went into full production mode on Sept. 1 of last year,” Seppich said.
Another key element to the smooth-running operation was tight security.
Knowing they’d likely be a prime target for hackers, the security team,
Schlumberger Network Solutions, devised a plan that included extremely
limited access from the outside across all the networks, including the
public Web sites, internal Olympic network and International Olympic Committee
network. In fact, there was no dial-up access at all to the internal network,
according to Seppich.
“We did see denial-of-service attacks, but they were easily thwarted”
because of the careful set-up, Seppich said. Durrant added that there
was “No downtime related to the [attacks].”
SchlumbergerSema’s contract calls for the firm to do the next three Olympic
games: Two summer Olympics and one winter. It’s been a learning experience
for both men. Durrant says that the most important lesson he’s discovered
is that, “You can’t do enough preparation, planning and testing.” For
his part, Seppich has had reinforced the notion that a smoothly functioning,
expert team is critical for the kind of success seen at Salt Lake: “Hire
highly qualified people and pay them well, and retain them. Good recruiting
is the key.”
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.