World Cup: A Massive IT Challenge

Twelve stadiums, each with a media center, 250,000 users, 40,000 network connections. Getting ready for the tournament was an IT adventure

There aren't many enterprises that boast 250,000 users, 10,000 network devices and an IT budget in the double-figure millions. But when you consider that budget is spent to support just one month's up-time it becomes clear why the Fifa World Cup Finals has been branded one of the world's largest - and most unique - IT projects.

Peter Meyer, head of IT at Fifa, said: "It's simple. You organise a tournament with 32 teams and at the end of it one of them wins.

"Where the challenge comes in is because it is global. You need technology to stage an event of this magnitude."

Fifa World Cup 2006: The network:

Three million RFID chips in tickets

250,000 users

40,000 network connections

10,000 communications and network devices

8,000 temporary network ports

8,000km of temporary cabling

45 application servers

25 communication servers

20 software applications

20 terabytes of converged voice and data traffic

And the majority of the work has had to be completed after the end of the German domestic football season in late April and early May.

The network created by Fifa for the duration of the World Cup spans 12 stadiums, each with a state-of-the-art media centre.

Meyer said: "Four years ago there was one international media centre, now there are 12 stadium media centres," which means the network has exploded in size and complexity.

The Fifa network also incorporates the tournament HQ in Berlin; the international broadcast centre in Munich; the IT command centre in Munich; 14 accreditation centres issuing passes to 15,000 members of the media, as well as partners, sponsors and Fifa employees; venue hotels in all the host cities, the referee's hotel in Frankfurt and connected information points and helpdesks at airports and train stations.

During the tournament it will carry an estimated 20 terabytes of converged voice and data traffic - or enough to fill 5,120 iPod Nanos at a rate of 170 per day. Included will be the data created by 3.2 million RFID-chipped tickets.

Securing the data is also key over such a distributed network, said Meyer, who has worked closely with network partner Avaya to proactively assess risk and potential attack vectors.

Doug Gardner, World Cup programme managing director at Avaya, said: "Security for the World Cup network is a major consideration. Somebody is going to try to break into the network just to say they have done it."

Device security is also paramount as well, with 3,000 Fifa-owned laptops at large around the 12 host cities - in addition to the many thousands brought by media from around the world.

Manuel Linnig, EMEA marketing manager at IT partner Toshiba, said: "Mobility in sport has become a lot more critical. Many staff in the past had a fixed base but now they are going from stadium to stadium."

As such, all venues have the same wireless configuration to enable staff to move seamlessly from venue to venue, and all laptops are protected by biometric authentication to ensure data is secure if devices are lost in transit.

Meyer said another major consideration in choosing laptops for the World Cup is design.

He said: "I always carry two laptops but better two light laptops than two heavy laptops," adding they must also be robust.

And as quickly as the giant project was assembled so too will it be disassembled.

Avaya's Gardner said: "Leipzig's last game finishes on Tuesday and we then have to gracefully take Leipzig off the network to avoid any security concerns.

"We will eventually do this at all stadiums until we get down to just one - Berlin on 9 July."