Marathon ITS, the company charged with delivering IT for London’s annual marathon, will be using WAN optimisation technology for the first time to improve bandwidth capabilities and network quality during the event.
The race is due to be held on 22 April and will see some 37,000 runners descend on the capital to take part in an event that requires complex IT support. Marathon IT uses Citrix XenApp to deliver IT services from a data centre in Germany to its event support staff in London, and to approximately 400 journalists on the day.
The network supports the transfer of a number of applications including email, file sharing, web access, runner databases and event statistics.
However, Paul Hepburn, IT consultant at Marathon ITS, told Computerworld UK that it cannot purchase enterprise-grade bandwidth for the race, as there is not enough time to deploy it and it would only be used for a few days of the year.
“Some of the locations we are working at we don’t get access to until maybe two hours before the event, so that means we can’t go to a telco and buy a nice, big, fat pipe. There isn’t time to install it,” said Hepburn.
“The challenge for us networking people is moving quickly enough to support the development of new applications. Users always want applications to do more, the developers are developing them, and historically we have always been playing catch-up because we couldn’t keep up with the amount of bandwidth that was required."
This year, for the first time, Marathon ITS has decided to deploy WAN optimisation technology provided by Silver Peak. This includes network accceleration, which helps improve latency problems, network integrity to correct packet delivery loss issues and prioritise time sensitive traffic, and network memory to maximise WAN bandwidth utilisation.
The primary use for the Silver Peak technology is to aid the transmission of runner data from the race back to Marathon ITS’s data centre in Germany, and then on to event support staff and journalists in London.
Each runner is fitted with a radio frequency chip on their shoe, which is then energised by radio frequency antennae placed on the start line and every five kilometres throughout the race. The antennae transmit time information and runner data back to users.
Hepburn claims that Silver Peak’s technology has enabled the event’s usual 10Mbps connection to perform like a 100Mbps connection, which he hopes will limit the number of drops in throughput that were occurring, and allow users to gain race information in real time.
“We were just getting by before with the bandwidth we had. Now we might even be able to consider VoIP applications or additional video services next year,” said Hepburn.
He added: “The reason we chose Silver Peak is because it has the ability to handle multiple applications and protocol. It is very good at compressing them all.
“There are a lot of other technologies out there, but we found in our testing is that Silver Peak’s competitors were excellent at compressing one or two applications, but couldn’t do all of them.”