No Open Source for the Winter Olympics

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2002-03-11 Print this article Print

The IT infrastructure looked exactly how the sponsors wanted it to look.

"Citius, altius, fortius." sponsorships took gold at the recent Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, where they shut out open-source technology in the massive infrastructure that supported the event.

Interestingly, there were far fewer sponsors than at past Olympics (those run by IBM), but they contributed far more in the way of cash, goods and services.

The translation is that this oligarchy of sponsors also had far more power, especially as far as brand-name protection and influence over how the IT infrastructure looked. And this time, the IT infrastructure looked exactly how those sponsors wanted it to look.

At Salt Lake City, the lead corporation charged with getting the Olympics rolling technically was SchlumbergerSema—the gigantic consulting arm of the gargantuan French conglomerate. The organizations that were combined to create SchlumbergerSema had revenues that hit more than $4 billion in 2000.

Interestingly, SchlumbergerSema had little say in whose technology was used in the Olympics—the 3,000 IT workers who put the Salt Lake City games together received equipment and help and then integrated it.

Many Utah-based companies were involved, including KeyLabs, which handled capacity testing and measurement; Satel, which assisted with security; and Power Innovations, which provided clean power.

But at the end of the day, Sun seemed to dominate the back-office sponsorship. The IT facility showed racks of Sun boxes. Qwest provided 32,000 miles of fiber cable; Gateway ensured that 4,500 cow boxes (and computers) made their way to the Olympics as well.

Theres no arguing that it worked perfectly, a testimony to SchlumbergerSema, which basically built the entire infrastructure from scratch. At least, no one at SchlumbergerSema admitted that anything went wrong. And it appears that the Olympic site fed pages to 15 million unique visitors without a hitch.

But this architecture had no open-source technologies. Had IBM been the integrator, it would have looked different. It wouldnt have been less expensive, but it could have been an interesting test of open-source technology.

Do sponsorships like this really help out the sponsors? Write to me at

As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel