IT scores unsung World Cup victory

While much of the world has been watching football for the past month, Gerard Gouillou has been monitoring data.

While much of the world has been watching football for the past month, Gerard Gouillou has been monitoring data.

Gouillou, chief information officer at Fifa, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, which ran the tournament, spent the past month making sure the rest of the world could follow the games without a hitch.

By the time Brazil lifted the trophy on Sunday, the FIFA network had moved close to 10Tbyte of data, Gouillou said.

The converged voice and data network, built and maintained by Avaya, performed without a hitch, according to Gouillou. But the popularity of the World Cup games meant the network required constant monitoring.

Enormous numbers of European fans followed the games on the Internet, flooding the FIFA Web site. By 21 June, FIFA had logged 1.45 billion views, with a one-day peak of 127.9 million. FIFA reported that its site had surpassed the total page views for the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, just one week after the World Cup started.

"We didn't expect anywhere near that kind of Internet traffic," Gouillou said.

Meanwhile, the main media centres in Korea and Japan generated far less network traffic than anticipated - even though the individual stadiums generated far more traffic.

"The one thing we had to change often was the way we were monitoring," said Gouillou. "You develop a model, but you cannot predict the way you have to monitor once everything starts."

"You want to know what will happen in the next minute, the next 15 minutes," he said. "The more reliant you get on that, the more addicted you get to it."

Gouillou said the predictive capabilities of monitoring equipment provided by Concord Communications, were particularly useful.

David Simpson, Avaya's vice-president for international services, noted that the network was built to run far in excess of its expected peak capacity. That mean the monitoring tools could be used more to anticipate network congestion rather than predict crises.

Avaya reported that its packet delivery rate before last weekend's final was 99.99999% - significantly higher than the "five nines" reliability rate common in the telephone industry. Voice-over-IP constituted a fair amount of that traffic, with the networking handling an average of 100,000 IP telephony calls per day.

The network was even able to withstand a one-day barrage of 400,000 e-mails received from angry Italian fans after their team lost to the South Koreans.

"It turns out that the extra bandwidth we built in was our saving grace," Simpson said.

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