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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 of glitch.”

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 invites skepticism.

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.”

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization Review.

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