Around the world, the rapid and widespread adoption of smart devices and applications is raising expectations of communications at home, at work and at play. This means that at a national level infrastructure investments need to cater to a technology-savvy audience and must be capable of delivering the best communications experience possible.
The Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, for example, will host 5,500 Olympic athletes and 25,000 volunteers and are forecast to attract approximately three billion TV viewers. What’s more, of the 75,000 people expected to visit the park each day, many will bring bandwidth-hungry devices and expect them to work seamlessly. Communications are vital to the event’s success, and the network will play a crucial role in ensuring the media, athletes, officials, volunteers, and visitors can communicate from anywhere, anytime.
To deliver the infrastructure able to handle this demand, I would argue that whatever the technology implementation - whether it’s the Olympics or a business deployment - the same philosophy and communications strategy should apply. In fact, we can draw many parallels between the world of business and the large scale projects such as the Olympics, and there is much that companies can learn from the experience:
  1. A Lean Approach to IT - The Olympic organisers now rely more heavily on partner organisations, meaning there is a need for a network that is simple to deploy and operate and that has the ability to turn up and adjust new services on the fly with fewer IT resources. Similarly, this is a core challenge facing many businesses today with a growing trend towards outsourcing coupled with tighter IT budgets.

  2. Addressing massive data demands - The organisers expect the use of video streaming on mobile and tablet to make a breakthrough at Sochi 2014. IPTV, tablets and smartphones will place unprecedented demands on the network requiring a secure and robust infrastructure that is capable of carrying vast amounts of data and coping with huge spikes in traffic during flagship events. In the same way, businesses today are faced with a greater volume and number of multi-media content and mobile devices and are having to assess their networks to ensure they have the capacity to operate effectively.

  3. Catering for the hyper-connected generation - Creating a secure BYOD environment for organisers, athletes, media, and supporters was a necessity for Sochi 2014 - identifying and granting access to a huge range of different user groups while ensuring bandwidth is protected and security breaches are prevented. Identity management for network access is something that businesses are increasingly adopting to ensure they can cater to employees, suppliers and customers in an open but secure way. As it’s already doing with many business customers, Avaya is addressing this at Sochi 2014 by using a tool that assigns network access rights and permissions based on a user’s credentials and role (media, athlete, IOC official), and where they connect from (Olympic village, competition venues, etc).

  4. Business as usual across multiple sites - The Olympic events will take place in two clusters - a mountain and a coastal area - with a range of new venues being built to host the events. The network has to provide seamless connectivity and consistent quality of service across all venues for athletes, media, Olympic family, and IOC members. For their part, businesses large and small are increasingly required to cater to mobile workers who expect to work from home, from other offices, and on the move, as effectively and securely as they would at their ‘desk’.
Consumer adoption and appetite for cutting-edge technologies is impacting infrastructure investment at all levels. Regardless of the scale and profile of the project, organisations of all sizes face many of the same challenges, and are all presented with the opportunity to create an environment that is flexible enough to embrace and enable the new era of communications we live in today. To do this, whatever the size and scale, they must put in place a clear and effective strategy that will enable them to achieve that goal.
Michael Bayer is president of Avaya for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Avaya is the official provider of network equipment and services to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.