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SOASTA Wins Olympics IT Testing Role

SOASTA gained experience in the London and Vancouver Olympics; its cloud-based testing will shape the next 10 years of Olympics IT.

Sochi Olympics 2014: 10 Technologies In Spotlight
Sochi Olympics 2014: 10 Technologies In Spotlight
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Testing to avoid failure is a challenge of Olympic proportions. Just ask SOASTA, which has committed for the next 10 years to test the readiness of the International Olympic Committee's ticketing and seat selection applications, as well as overall website operations.

The Mountain View, Calif., firm announced Tuesday a 10-year contract to serve as the application tester for the International Olympic Committee's IT operations. It's a subcontractor to general contractor Atos, a 74,000-employee French firm also under contract to supply IT services, as it's currently doing in Sochi, Russia.

"We're already in conversations with Tokyo," the site of the 2020 Summer Olympics, said Tom Lounibos, CEO of SOASTA. He said SOASTA will set up IT operations for the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil and the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. It will also supply testing for IT services in the 2022 Winter Games and 2024 Summer Games, whose venues haven't been set yet. "We're not too sure where we're going to be," he said.

The contract award, in one sense, ends Lounibos's long journey to become part of the Olympics. Before SOASTA was founded, he sold his online mortgage origination startup, Dorado, and was tapped by former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom to be the CIO of the city's bid to host the 2016 Summer Games. San Francisco lost to Chicago in that effort, which ultimately went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But Lounibos still had a strong desire to participate in Olympics IT.

[Want to learn more about how Soasta tests applications from the cloud? See Cloud Platform Stress Test Mobile Apps.]

SOASTA has established itself as an Olympics favorite because it was an early implementer of testing applications at very large scale. It was founded in 2006 to conduct large-scale testing by using cloud services. It temporarily rents hundreds or thousands of servers and uses them to simulate the demands of hundreds of thousands of users, bombard an application with requests, and record the response. It's been known to use Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, Microsoft's Azure, or any regional provider that can provide the number of servers it needs to generate an adequate test on its CloudTest Platform.

Being of Olympics caliber also gives SOASTA entree to Olympics sponsors, who will advertise their association with the Games and push masses of viewers to their websites or mobile applications.

Lounibos said serving Olympics IT isn't the end of the journey. On the contrary, the Olympics is another outpost on the Internet of Things. The nature and function of devices coming to the Olympics is rapidly changing. People at the London Olympics posted 2,000 tweets a second. In terms of Twitter use, one day in London was equivalent to 17 in Beijing.

Likewise, Sochi has seen 40,000 athletes and their supporters arrive with an average of three devices each, all needing to connect to the network and receive IT services. Lounibos doesn't have a count, but he suspects it's four times the number of devices that were brought to the Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. As he looks ahead to 10 more years of the Games, SOASTA must think in terms of testing systems and mobile applications to serve double or triple that number.

Atos said Tuesday said it's no longer sufficient for Olympics IT systems to capture results and broadcast them to judges and attendees. It also needs to transmit real-time results to 8 billion devices around the world.

To keep up, SOASTA has incorporated testing for Android or iOS touch-screen applications. Its Touch Test technology can simulate touch-based interactions with applications and record the results. The testing isn't just for application functionality but also how it performs under loads of tens or hundreds of thousands of concurrent users.

Olympic-caliber testing doesn't just see if code runs and returns expected results. SOASTA is designing tests that strain the capabilities of application software and set off one small failure that cascades through the system and causes a major failure, explained Lounibos. SOASTA tested the Sochi IT preparations from 16 different locations around the world to make sure they could keep millions of people informed.

Creating the tests and forcing the issue through advance testing illuminates weak points. It ultimately allows developers to build in the resiliency the application needs to stand up to demand. And that, perhaps, is why Sochi ticket sales, seat assignments, and general operations have been, for the most part, a non-event. And Lounibos wants to keep it that way for future Olympics.

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Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek, having joined the publication in 2003. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse ... View Full Bio

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Kristin Burnham
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
2/12/2014 | 8:59:09 PM
Re: Sochi offers first real time results posted to cloud
If only the speed skaters' timing system could work as flawlessly.
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Ninja
2/12/2014 | 6:12:41 PM
Sochi offers first real time results posted to cloud
Olympics general IT contractor, Atos, said today that Sochi is the first Olympics to post event results to the cloud in near real time. That should mean an elastic capability--as much information uploaded as needed without delay and as many people able to access them at one time as want to. Chief Operations Officer Yan Noblot said the cloud is "a perfect fit, guaranteeing security, integrity and a flawless Games experience." We hope he's got that right.
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