Olympics told to go open source

HP and IBM are trying to ensure open source software is used to run the Beijing games, but a lack of local expertise could leave the move stuck in the starting blocks

The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games could switch to a cost-saving open source technology platform under proposals to be considered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The open source move will be recommended by the IOC's technology partner Atos Origin on the back of guidance from subcontractors that include HP and IBM.

Claude Philipps, programme director at Atos Origin for the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com the plans will be put to the IOC in a formal proposal and that the committee will then make the final decision.

He said: "For open source we have a plan to propose this for Beijing. It will save money on the licences."

But he said support costs could scupper the open source switch. "The issue might be support because especially in China you don't have all the companies we have in Europe and the US," he said.

The IT behind the Olympics is a massive operation involving some 1,200 IT team members, including 800 volunteers, who run 450 Intel-based servers and Unix boxes, 4,700 PCs and 700 printers.

The immovable deadline, need for security and zero downtime for the Olympic Games mean the technology choices are usually quite conservative. This led to wireless networks being banned for previous games but that too is set to change for Beijing in 2008.

Massimo Dossetto, IT security architect for the 2006 Turin games, said: "There is no wireless in Turin [for next year's Winter Olympics] but there will be in Beijing. The technology has become mature and we will use Cisco's network admin control."

RFID is also being looked at for asset management to help keep track of PCs and other IT equipment during the games but biometrics and smartcards are definitely off the agenda.

Dossetto said: "We would need to deploy a huge number of devices to read them and just for one event it is not cost effective."

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