Most network designers toil away in obscurity, their work rarely seen by the public.
Not Dean Frohwerk. A lead distinguished solutions engineer for Avaya Inc., in 2010 he led a Canadian team that architected the data voice network for the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Had the network failed hundreds of millions of people would have known.
Based in Ottawa, he’s doing it again for the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games where Avaya was again chosen to provide the telecom network.
The Olympic games start Feb. 7, the Paralympics a month later.
Avaya is installing some 2,000 switches, 2,500 wireless access points, 6,500 VoIP telephones to create the infrastructure across four data centres, 11 competition sites and 20 related sites (such as the airport, the press centre and the athletes’ village).
In some ways the two cities are similar: Vancouver and Sochi are on coasts with the indoor facilities like the main arenas, while higher nearby mountain venues have outdoor events like skiing and sledding.
The similarities end there.
Sochi “has been a unique challenge,” Frohwerk said in an interview, because new telecom and road infrastructure had to be built,
“Early on we were importing some of the data centre equipment using trucks from Kazahkstan to get to Sochi, and the trucks were too large for the highways. We lost radio for a few days with them, had to send smaller trucks out.”
And some of the construction is still being completed, which for Frohwerk and his team has meant more network emulating in labs than on a functioning network than he’d like.
On the other hand, in Vancouver he had to provision virtual LANs across the network to application-specific routers. At Sochi Avaya is using a network fabric technology to provision the network edge with overlaying virtual services networks.
“The world’s changed a lot in four short years,” Frohwerk added. “While we do effectively the same thing as in Vancouver, the scale has changed, our technology solutions have changed.”
The main thing is wireless. Reporters and the Olympic family — everyone from athleles, judges and Olympic national committee members — expected to plug into a wired network in Vancouver.
At Sochi Wi-Fi is the rule –Frohwerk says its being treated as the first BYOD Olympics — with the assumption that those eligible to connect have more than one wireless device.
Remember, he says, in Vancouver an iPhone 3Gs was considered state of the art.
Second, for Sochi Avaya has its Fabric Connect architecture.
There’s also an IPTV feed for the press centre and the athletes’ village, which wasn’t provided at Vancouver.
Another big change is the ability to create a network fabric. “We treated the Vancouver like a virtual campus — different sites in Whistler and Vancouver were pulled together and treated them like different logical sources on a campus. In Sochi with (Avaya) Fabric Connect(the network) looks like a data centre — we extended the fabric to each of the venues, and that let us more easier provision and trouble shoot
“We would have had physical devices to application-specific networks in Vancouver. (At Sochi) it’s all virtualized across the fabric.”
The games will host 98 events, of which 29 will be held in what is called the coastal cluster (the city of Sochi) and 69 in mountain cluster. That is 12 more than at the Vancouver games.
After the design was architected in North America by Frohwere and a team of eight from Avaya Canada, Avaya Canada’s Rob Pineau led a 30-member detailed network design and engineering team that actually built it.
Data centers were built in Moscow, then disassembled and shipped to Sochi.
The network is built around the VSP 9000 switches in each of the four data centres, and 30 pairs of ERS 8800 switches and 2,000 ERS 4500 access switches in each of the competition venues.
There are actually two networks — one has critical applications built with a system integrator.
With some 8,000 athletes and 5,500 broadcasters registered, Frohwerk calls it the largest guest network in the world. Access is control is done through the Avaya Identity Engine suite, which puts the right user on the right network. Avaya’s Aura suite is used for unified communications on the voice network.
When the games start, Frohwerk will be there as part of Avaya’s network support team.
Hopefully, he’ll have time to watch the events.