When the world turns its collective attention to Athens, Greece, and the start of the 28th Olympiad Aug. 13, it will be able to do so thanks to the herculean IT effort of the Athens Olympic Committee and its sponsors.
One pillar of that effort is, and has been for the past 40 years, Xerox Corp., in Stamford, Conn. As with past Olympics, Xerox has spent the last several years preparing. But rather than orchestrate large-system deployments as it has before, this time Xerox has been designing and implementing a massive data-capturing and imaging-systems network, as well as an IT nerve center from which to monitor, configure and manage the infrastructure.
For Vince Schaffer, Xeroxs director of worldwide Olympic operations for the past decade, the Olympic commitment is an exercise in global enterprise planning and deployment, involving everything from assessment and early planning to procurement and deployment—and a lot more in between.
For Xerox, as well as the other technology sponsors, however, the enterprise is transient. “Yeah, we build this Fortune 500 company and then close it down six months after the games,” Schaffer said with a laugh in an interview recently from his office in Athens.
But, as it is with the 10,000-plus athletes getting ready to compete in Greece, the name of the game for Xerox is preparation. The company, like other sponsors, not only spends several years mapping out plans, it also has a battery of preliminary challenges to overcome as well before it medals.
“When I first started doing the [Olympics], I thought Id just go and cover the games,” Schaffer said. “But before you get to the games, you have to host every event prior to the games.”
Thats because the Olympic Committee requires technology providers to test their prospective solutions in a live and similar setting prior to the games. In Xeroxs case, the company evaluated its solutions in more than 40 test events, genuine world-class athletic competitions, to ensure the quality of its systems under pressure.
As for the tale of the tape, Xerox is deploying some 6,000 printers, copiers and multifunction printer machines (2,000 more devices than was called for in the Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, in 2000). Most of those devices, however, are the companys WorkCentre Pro 35 and 55 models.
The key function of the Xerox infrastructure is without question the key to the Olympics: tabulating the results of the 37 games and then, almost instantaneously, moving that data from the 140 venues to the press center, which, said Schaffer, resembles a “printer farm.”
To help manage this farm, as well as the printers and devices at the rest of the venues, Xerox turned to its CentreWare Web-based printer networking software and a network it dubbed the Games Management System. With CentreWare, Xerox can not only monitor the status of all 6,000 devices but also manage and configure them from a central location, saving the company time and resources.
“Its an elixir that saved us a lot of staffing issues,” said Schaffer. “In the past, weve had to load the drivers on each individual machine thats connected to the printers.”
For that central location, Xerox constructed the Technology Operations Centre, a war room of sorts, equipped with large plasma screens and set behind glass walls.
If you think thats a lot of work just for printing, youre right. Xerox estimates its machines will pump out 120 to 140 million pages during the 17-day Olympiad.
But when the torch is extinguished, Xerox wont hit the showers. The company will begin almost immediately retrofitting the operation for the 2004 Paralympic Games, also in Athens, beginning Sept. 9.
Ironically, after all the time and preparation Xerox has put into both games, the thing that keeps Schaffer up at night is rather simple. “The biggest issue now is if the PC isnt turned on,” he said.
But Schaffer has that covered, too. One job of a team of 230 Xerox engineers roaming the grounds will be to check PC on/off switches.