Tying it together at the Pan Am Games

The hardware was mostly IBM. The NOS was Microsoft. The output was Xerox. The administration was Loran Technologies.

The network the Pan Am Games ran on was almost as diverse as the athletes themselves.

An event-wide network was used for game results, said Cliff Durston, vice-president of technology for the Pan Am Games. “The purpose of the network is to collect the results from the Games,” he said during a telephone interview, conducted while the games were taking place. “The results are actually done at the (sports) venue, and then they are sent to the central server and distributed to a number of places, including the main media centre and the international broadcast centre.”

The network encompassed approximately 81 IBM servers and 400 IBM PCs. At the centre of the network were RS/6000s, with the network itself running Windows NT on IBM Netfinity servers. The whole setup was monitored at the event’s data network centre.

“The data network centre needs to know exactly what’s on-line in real-time, at any given time,” Durston said. “All of the devices on the network are kept alive through a system of pings.”

Cisco routers connected the sports venues to the central site and IBM switches were used for the venues’ local area networks, Durston said.

Al Hykaway, systems manager for the technology department at the Games, said there were two major routers located at the central site. One was the primary router which supported a T-3 connection, while the other was connected to back-up lines.

“We had approximately 40 locations that were running anywhere from a T-1 to a 64Kbps line,” Hykaway explained. “The high-profile venues (approximately 12) would have two routers running in stand-by mode.”

When it came time for the IT department to choose which network management tool to use, it found Ottawa-based Loran Technologies’ Kinnetics Network Manager met most of its concerns.

Durston explained that telecom network provider Manitoba Telecom Services monitored the backbone at the router level, but Kinnetics Network Manager was used to manage the switches in the venue LANs.

“We wanted to get down into the network of the switches, and that’s why the Kinnetics system was chosen,” he said.

The results from each of the events were distributed across the network in a print file format, ensuring the data was not changed.

“That is to keep the integrity of the printed copy,” Durston explained, “exactly the same as the official has approved.”

According to Hykaway, there were 191 Xerox printers attached to the network. “Some are results printers,” he said. “As they ran an event, and the results were in, they could print it off that printer and get it signed by the official.”

He explained that there were other printers designated for media use only, located in places such as the Panasonic International Broadcast Centre, the Xerox Main Media Centre and some of the sport villages.

“These other printers are called auto-print or reprint printers,” Hykaway said. “When an event becomes official, they (the officials) send the result to the central results system.”

That system then distributed the information to all the print stations, allowing the media to call up any they required, including medal counts, daily results and start lists.

“We had to manage those devices also because we wanted to make sure the queue line didn’t fill up,” Hykaway said.

Another service allowed results to be seen from “a series of drill-down terminals called an info-system,” Durston said. “The info-terminals were basically an intranet type set-up for the media to allow them to get information,” Hykaway explained.

Those terminals were used strictly by the media and members of the Games staff to get information. But there were various other terminals on the network — some were used by technical staff to administer a sporting event, while others, such as data-entry terminals, might have been used to plug in information from a field of play.

“For example,” Durston explained, “in a basketball game they would feed in that player number 19 took a shot from 30 feet and either missed or scored. That would be called in at the field of play, and would be entered in at real-time.”

The information was used to calculate the final score, compile statistics and feed television graphics.

“While a play is going on, the television people can call up a particular on-screen graphic, which will show the progress of the game to date,” Durston said.

Durston said the system also included program downloads for the various sports.

“Each sport would have its own particular and peculiar software system that would run that sport. Those can be programmed centrally and downloaded over the network,” he said.

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