The Most Digital Games Ever: The Technology Story Behind the Winter Olympics

The WInter Olympics is groundbreaking for technology and sports enthusiasts alike. But, for us, the real story is under the hood. How can technology be most effective, and what do teams need to do to get it right?

Darren Watkins is Managing Director for VIRTUS Data Centres.

The potentially revolutionary impact of technology in sport is well known, and the 2018 Winter Olympics is no different. South Korea boasts the fastest broadband in the world (an average of 28.6Mbps compared to 16.9 in the UK) and connectivity will be further boosted at Pyeongchang by the introduction of a 5G mobile network at games venues. Visitors will benefit significantly from the capabilities of this enormous bandwidth, able to enjoy transcendent live streaming and unsurpassed Instant Video Replay (lVR) experiences, making for a more engaging, immersive experience.

And, of course, it’s not just viewers and visitors who will be benefiting from technology at the Games. Virtually every athlete will be using Internet of Things (IoT) technology to monitor and improve performance, and big data analysis will continue to be vital. Looking closer, this contest will see South Korean industrial-technology firm Samsung equipping two Dutch speed skaters with suits with numerous sensors to feed back live body position data to their coaches - exciting work which could provide that all important competitive advantage.

So, tech enthusiasts are watching with interest as the action at the Games continues to unfold. In fact, Hee-beom Lee, president of the PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee recently said that he is dedicated to making the 2018 Winter Games the most digital games ever. And technology partners of the Games report that this Olympics will be the first to see all critical systems in the cloud and managed remotely - groundbreaking stuff.

However, the real story is behind the scenes. Technology is helping Harry Lovell, a Ski Cross athlete for the British Academy who is hoping to compete in future Winter Olympics. It plays a huge part in Harry’s training, and his performance is significantly influenced by great technology. For example, cameras are used to capture information about his performance, helping him develop and refine technique. Harry’s smartwatch also helps him to reduce his resting heart rate, assisting his ability to perform at altitude, and even Harry’s clothing is engineered to give him extra speed.

The pace of change means that nobody can afford to be complacent, and virtually all athletes are relying on technology to help improve performance and take on the competition. Big data and IoT technologies put intense pressure on an organization’s security, servers, storage and network. Sporting organizations are finding themselves struggling to proactively meet the demands that a tech-first sporting industry requires, and they’re often turning to third party vendors for help.

Sports Success Starts with Storage (really)

The most obvious challenge for sports teams employing a tech-first approach is simply in storing and analyzing swathes of information. The key requirements of big data storage are that it can handle very large amounts of data and keep scaling to keep up with growth, and that it can provide the input/output operations per second (IOPS) necessary to deliver data to analytics tools.

Speed is of course key in big data; one of its main characteristics is real-time or near real-time responses. This is never more pertinent than in sports, where the ability to turn on a dime, and make fast, informed, decisions, is paramount.

In order to manage this crucial requirement, IT departments need to deploy more forward-looking capacity management to be able to proactively meet the demands that come with processing, storing and analyzing machine generated data. And, perhaps no surprise that sporting organizations are turning to outside vendors to help.

In sport, just as in any other commercial industry, on-premise IT is on the decline and colocation facilities are becoming increasingly dominant. High Performance Computing (HPC) is also now being looked at as a way to meet this challenge, requiring data centers to adopt high density innovation strategies in order to maximize productivity and efficiency, increase available power density, and the ‘per foot’ computing power of the data center.

And, cloud computing offers almost unlimited storage and instantly available and scalable computing resource, offering enterprise users the very real opportunity of renting infrastructure that they could not afford to purchase otherwise.

Help is Good -But What is Good Help?

For now the biggest challenge for teams is choosing a technology partner that meets their needs. There are many ways to do this, but we believe that transparency, flexibility and security are the key requirements which should be put at the top of any organization’s list.

Put simply, cloud computing, colocation or managed services are appealing to many organizations because they’re not technology experts. And while managed services can both simplify operations, because external companies take care of the day-to-day running of an IT system, and even provide competitive advantage, organizations must trust your technology partners absolutely.

Simply put, when outages in service are no longer within your own ability to fix, or data leakages aren’t within your remit to control, trust is paramount. When selecting a partner, we think it’s imperative ask those tricky questions about redundancy, uptime and reliability – and to make sure that you know they have robust disaster recovery procedures in place should the worst happen.

The WInter Olympics is groundbreaking for technology and sports enthusiasts alike. But, for us, the real story is under the hood. How can technology be most effective, and what do teams need to do to get it right?

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating.

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