An Olympian IT Challenge

MCSE Scott Seppich expects long work days in February, having joined the SchlumbergerSema staff integrating the IT infrastructure for the Olympics.

MCSE Scott Seppich expects long work days in February. As the manager of NT and SQL Systems for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, he’ll be leading a team of 40 IT staffers and volunteers monitoring Intel-based server and client activity distributed across 10 competition venues, four non-competition venues, and 100 smaller sites related to the events.

Seppich left his bank job a year and a half ago to join the SchlumbergerSema staff integrating the IT infrastructure for the Olympics.

“This is an amazing project,” he says. “I don’t think the public knows what goes on in a project of this nature. It’s hard to appreciate what has gone on for many, many years.”

Seppich has been particularly impressed with the amount of testing the project encompasses. “I’ve never worked anywhere they’ve tested and validated from end to end like they have here,” he says.

Of course, this is no ordinary effort. The $300 million implementation, which will handle every IT function, from tracking and reporting results to managing transportation and housing to keeping communications up between locations, involves the integration of hardware and software offerings from 40 different companies from around the world.

According to Seppich’s boss, Jason Durrant, director of system integration testing, the work began three years ago, like “any traditional project cycle: gathering user requirements.” The challenge: implementing solutions with contributions that cut across countries, cultures, languages and philosophies.

Olympian IT task
An IT center at the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City

Says Durrant, “We’re basically treating this as a large-scale integration project.” The group has a sizable integration lab in Salt Lake City, where it has brought all of the applications together. The lingua-franca: XML. “Very base line,” says Durrant. “No extensions.”

Early on, the group laid out the network as a whole and, given various factors—load, reliability and stability—designated functions for either the Windows or Unix platform. Windows won out for about three-fourths of it. The set-up consists of 5,000 Gateway PC clients running NT Workstation and 400 servers, running NT 4.0 Server. The remainder, primarily distribution systems, will run Unix on Sun boxes. Whereas NT will power the on-venue results applications—taking the raw scoring data and doing the calculations to establish winner rankings—Unix will be used to send those results “downstream” to the global press, the Internet and printer feeds.

The staff manages two separate networks, one for administration and the other for the games-related functions, each with redundant routes between locations.

Durrant says one goal from the beginning was to stay away from anything “bleeding edge.” Three years ago, when the work began, they sought “platforms that were very stable.” Thus, NT 4.0 instead of Windows 2000. Also, most of the custom software for the games was being written in Barcelona by a team of 180 SchlumbergerSema developers for the NT platform.

The central technology center, where Seppich will be based, runs NetIQ’s management tools to monitor the network real-time and Intel’s LANDesk Management Suite for software inventory, distribution and remote control.

Is Seppich disappointed to be running an older generation of software? “Absolutely not. This is the technology I was brought here to implement and support... The stability and reliability of NT systems—and the fact that they’ve proven themselves out—has really impressed a lot of people.”

Because Seppich’s current full-time team of four NT and three SQL Server experts can’t be everywhere during the games, he has additional contract and volunteer staff lined up that will be on site. The MCSE credential was actually a baseline for joining the group. “That’s a benchmark on the aptitude and support of Microsoft technologies,” he explains. “In the event we do have an issue, we can walk these folks through the work [from where we are].”

Although he says he hasn’t “had time to focus” enough to get his Win2K credential, he recently encouraged three members of his team to pass their accelerated exams.

As the opening ceremony on Feb. 5th comes closer, says Seppich, "there’s a palpable excitement in the air. All the work we’ve put in—over three billion people will see our efforts live."

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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