8 IT Lessons Learned From the 2012 Summer Olympics

The 2012 London Olympics weren't just about athletic prowess. This year's games saw more data leave Olympic Park and move around the world than ever before. The applications, infrastructure and technical know-how required to pull this off offers valuable lessons for CIOs as they plan IT projects.

By John Brandon
Tue, August 14, 2012

CIO — America is still celebrating the Summer Olympics in London, where our athletes dominated in many sports and took home more medals than any other country. For CIOs, a major sporting event that attracted more than 1 billion visitors to its official website and double the number of viewers to the NBC Olympics website provides a good lesson in how to manage your infrastructure, prevent unexpected outages and keep company operations smooth even during massive spike sin network traffic.

The eight IT lessons listed below can help you improve services in your data center or beef up just-in-time network monitoring.

1. Business Intelligence Can Expose Data in New Ways

London 2012

QlikTech revealed some surprising facts during the games when it ran a live QlikView business intelligence app for 30 popular athletes. You can quickly pivot the data to see why Anthony Deighton, the CTO at QlikTech, says this BI app even helped viewers predict who might win the bronze, silver or gold for an event. The lesson is about discovery data that a CIO might not have seen before using quick, visual summaries. He says the convergence of social networking with business intelligence captures the power of crowds to speed decisions.

Slideshow: 10 Mobile Business Intelligence Apps for On-the-Go Analysis

2. Keep an Eye on Networks During Online Broadcasts

Mark Urban, a network security expert at Blue Coat, a company that makes an appliance for network caching, says one employee watching a high-definition stream of the Olympics can consume as much as 30 percent of a T1 line, according to the company's own network monitoring. Urban says there are direct costs for this video saturation, most of them related to network management for live and recorded events. This year, he says, YouTube channel views alone doubled to 53 million.

Analysis: Linx Fortifies Internet Infrastructure for Olympics

3. Social Networking Can Cripple GPS Services

During one event in London, fans tweeting about a bicycle race interfered with network operations. The interruption meant broadcasters could not provide GPS-enabled information about the speed and location of the riders. Brian Jacobs, a senior product manager at Ipswitch Network Management, says the problem could have been prevented using network management software that puts a specific limit to activity on a particular website (including Twitter). For CIOs, the lesson is in making sure there is a contingency plan to keep a network up and running.

4. Stress-test Your Website With the Cloud

Simulations can help prevent disasters. For the official London2012.com site, the London Organizing Committee (LOC) used SOASTA cloud testing software to simulate up to 1 billion people accessing the site from every country across the globe. CloudTest software uses 17 servers to pummel a Web site and find out if it will survive intense usage during one particular event. Paul Bunnell, a lead architect for the LOC, says the committee used SOASTA to stress test for specific popular events, such as the 100-meter final.

Column: Olympics Website Leans on Open Source Akamai for Winning Results

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