IT a key to World Cup success

While much of the world has been watching soccer for the past month, Gerard Gouillou has been monitoring data.

Gouillou, CIO at the Zurich-based Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which runs soccer's World Cup tournament, spent the past month making sure the rest of the world could follow the games without a hitch. By the time the dust settles after Sunday's final game between Brazil and Germany, the FIFA network will have moved close to 10TB of data, Gouillou said.

The converged voice and data network, built and maintained by Avaya Inc. in Basking Ridge, N.J., performed without a hitch, according to Gouillou. But the popularity of the World Cup games meant the network required constant monitoring.

A groundswell of European fans followed the games on the Internet, flooding the FIFA Web site. As of June 21, FIFA had logged 1.45 billion page views, with a one-day high mark of 127.9 million page views. FIFA reported that its site had surpassed the total page views for the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City just one week after the World Cup started.

"We didn't expect anywhere near that kind of Internet traffic," Gouillou said.

Meanwhile, the main media centers in Korea and Japan generated far less network traffic than anticipated -- even though the individual stadiums generated far more traffic.

"The one thing we had to change often was the way we were monitoring," said Gouillou. "You develop a model, but you cannot predict the way you have to monitor once everything starts."

Concord Communications Inc. in Marlboro, Mass., was the vendor chosen for the monitoring job, and Gouillou said much of his duties revolved around the information being provided by that software, especially its predictive capabilities.

"You want to know what will happen in the next minute, the next 15 minutes," he said. "The more reliant you get on that, the more addicted you get to it."

David Simpson, Avaya's vice president for international services, noted that the network was built to run far in excess of its expected peak capacity. That mean the monitoring tools could be used more to anticipate network congestion rather than predict crises.

In fact, nearly 98 percent of the Web site problems were resolved without anyone being dispatched.

Avaya reported that its packet delivery rate was 99.99999 percent -- significantly higher than the "five nines" reliability rate common in the telephone industry. Voice over IP constituted a fair amount of that traffic, with the networking handling an average of 100,000 IP telephony calls per day.

The network was even able to withstand a one-day barrage of 400,000 e-mails received from angry Italian fans after their team lost to the South Koreans.

"It turns out that the extra bandwidth we built in was our saving grace," Simpson said.

Gouillou said that what made him happiest about the games was how little attention was paid to his department.

"My goal for the World Cup is that IT should go unnoticed," he said. "People should be paying attention to football, not our network performance."

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