The networking of the World Cup

They think it's all connected, it is now...

They think it's all connected, it is now...

To meet Doug Gardner in the run up to the World Cup is to meet a man on a mission. He is the Avaya regional MD for the World Cup, meaning he is responsible for making sure all the networking in Japan and South Korea - between 20 stadia and two international media centres - works. And you'd think as the tournament nears he'd get tenser. But as he counts down the days to the opening ceremony and game in Seoul - and this tough Australian does literally count down the days - he seems to grow in confidence. "We're on target and we will get this right. From a project perspective, it's gone the way we expected from the early planning," he recently told silicon.com. Should we believe him? Short of seeing how things go throughout June it's hard to say in advance but there's already a fair amount of evidence in Avaya's favour. The company was brought to this World Cup relatively late - in autumn last year - so it's had to be spot on with its planning and able to work well with the other main technology partners of FIFA, world football's governing body. These are Korea Telecom and Japan's NTT for telecoms in each host country, Toshiba for servers, PCs and laptops, and Yahoo for internet infrastructure and the official Fifaworldcup.com website. And it was last December that the first major milestone for Avaya was passed, when the draw was made in Pusan, South Korea, for the 32 teams' games this summer. There were gasps as some of the high-profile games fell in to place (England - Argentina and, for local reasons, South Korea - USA) but no network problems. But things are about to get harder. Gardner is responsible for converged networks in both countries, though IP telephony is excluded from the FIFA contract in South Korea, and must make sure 1,600km of cabling in each country, over 10,000 devices and dozens of wireless LAN'd areas are networked without mishap. Tests in mid-May - simulating five matches and equipment failure/sabotage and using network data from France 98 - have gone well. "Now we're tying up the loose ends," said Gardner. But what will the whole project teach Avaya and demonstrate to potential customers? In other words, is the effort worth it? Logistically, such a project is unique. In addition to static staff devoted to the project and dozens of partners, Avaya technical personnel, comprising a total of 160 to 180 people drawn from business units in the US, Europe and Asia, will be despatched to stadia two days before a game, and leave a day after. They will be fully mobile and responsible for each game going off without a hitch. It's the sort of precision operation that may win respect from people in certain industries. Paul Myer, an Avaya VP marketing also working on the World Cup, said: "It will be the largest enterprise in the world for 31 days," - which makes it easier to see the long-term business value of the company's involvement. Whether users deem the situation relevant to their businesses is another matter but there's no doubt that for all the talk of cabling, resilience, protocols and more, Avaya - like many an upcoming football star - has the chance to enter July with an enhanced reputation. The end of June will coincide with the second anniversary of the company as an independent, named spin-off, formerly operating as Lucent's enterprise networking division. From there, the company will take its World Cup involvement on to the women's tournament in China next year, then Germany in 2006 - an event for which it has already started planning with the host organising committee. "That will be the wireless World Cup," added Avaya's Gardner. "And our involvement will be more elaborate." Let's enjoy the 64 games this year first. And look out for 11 June - the day four games take place, two sets of two concurrently. If everything holds up then, Gardner will know that, barring a catastrophe, the network has done its job.