Gerry Pennell believes cloud computing is far from ready for mission-critical applications in the 2012 London Olympics.
In a masterclass presentation at the Gartner Symposium in Barcelona, the London 2012 CIO noted: "On the face of it, there is a natural synergy between an event and the cloud. The economics make sense, cloud is the way to go in the medium to long term. But it would be a very brave man who would use cloud computing to measure athletic performance."
The Olympics relies on reusing systems and code. CIOs cannot afford to discard the investment to build an entirely new infrastructure using the cloud. Gerry Pennell said: "It does not make economic sense, but I expect to see a gradual evolution to cloud computing."
In the presentation Pennell said measuring measure athletic performance was the biggest challenge the Olympics IT team faced. "We need to take data from different sources, like from the venue." This information is then formatted and pumped out to different destinations, such as the result on the scoreboard or the commentator information systems. The data is also used for TV graphics. He said: "We also provide background on athletes, for journalists and pass information onto the news wires."
Clearly it is all in real time, which is why cloud computing cannot yet be trusted. Real time also means real-time service levels. He said: "We cannot be in a situation where we have to wait for people on standby for support."
This is why there is an IT team of 5,000 comprising Pennell's 300-strong in-house team and staff from key suppliers including Atos, BT, Cisco, Acer and Samsung, along with 2,500 volunteers.
IT preparation began two years ago, which involved a technology freeze to ensure systems like PCs and servers remained identical for the duration of the project. This is probably another reason why cloud has not reached the starting line for London 2012.
The hard deadline forced the decision. The project carries a high profile not just for Pennell and his team, but for all the sponsors. He said: "We have had to get most of the core deliverables done early and have spent the rest of the time in testing. We will run everything on a 2010 PC - to ensure the chipset is identical."
The level of reuse from Beijing means Pennell can minimise the amount of changes required in mission-critical core services. He said: "We can take risks in less mission-critical areas like delivery of results to smartphones, which was not done at Beijing."
Atos is delivering a lot of the software. But he said there is plenty that is new to London. For instanced, the network is built from scratch by BT and Cisco.