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Crank IT up a gear, Murray!

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It’s Wimbledon, and like many people, I’m glued to the television (in the evening, obviously), cheering on Andy Murray, or whoever I want to rise triumphant in a particular match.

I love the stats (not that I actually understand them all) and have often thought how great it would be to be sat in the commentary box with all the screens keeping me updated with the official statistics feed.

The same is true when I see the screens at Christian Horner et al’s disposal at a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

All of these stats come from pieces of technology, but what goes in to getting the data to us, the umpires and the world?

At the Cloud World Forum at Olympia last week, Daniel Marion, Head of IT for UEFA gave a presentation entitled ‘Score or Fail with IT’.

I admit, I made a beeline for the presentation because it was UEFA and it’s always fascinated me how they produce these huge tournaments.  But the content was particularly relevant given the two week spectacle at SW19.

Marion explained some of the logistics of running a major tournament from an IT perspective: the laying of cable between venues, the supply of broadcast feeds to different national broadcasts, and even how their CRM system determines which broadcast ads are shown in which territory (you know, the ‘this programme is sponsored by’ parts).

UEFA has a relatively small IT department, preferring to outsource most services to partners.  They have long-term relationships with their partners so that everybody involved can learn lessons from one tournament to the next.

They bring all their suppliers under the UEFA brand, treating them as one team – they call this ‘federation’.

The reason?  There are absolute deadlines when providing IT for a tournament.  Only 100% service level agreements are in place.  You may remember the disaster at ITV when it showed an advert instead of a goal in the last FIFA World Cup.

OK, so that was a manual error, but imagine UEFA losing the feed during the Champions League Final.  Similarly, everything has to be ready in time for the tournament – an absolute deadline.

Cloud Technology

To ensure there is the best chance possible of succeeding, one area UEFA is investing more in is Cloud technology, to expand or contract the services they require flexibly, depending on the level of activity going on at the time.

They have good disaster recovery models that mean, should one system fail, their Cloud stack can expand in a different area and allow the failover system to grow and kick in, whilst the recovery of the original area takes place.

This seems sensible at the very least given the demand of us, the viewers, not to miss a single minute of action (the SLA we expect).

The commoditisation of services in the Cloud allows for this type of approach, and we’re seeing many vendors adopt this very approach (in Sage’s case, for their new release of Sage 200 Online).  Crank it up, wind it down – the choice is yours depending on your business model and what your customers need from you too.

100% SLA is difficult to achieve, and simply not necessary for most businesses.

Of course, I won’t be saying that if the Beeb has a blackout as Murray aces for the Championship!


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