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How I get to do really cool tech stuff at the Tour de France

Blog

Gearing up IT service delivery for a revolutionised viewing experience

As part of Dimension Data’s Tour de France technical team since 2015, I’ve been steadily working myself out of a job. Well, not literally, but my role has certainly changed over the years.

We’ve progressively shifted gears to improve the IT environment that supports the data collection, analytics, and reporting which keep fans and followers engaged in the race. We’ve gone from taking days to set up our big data truck, in 2015, to being able to just about ‘plug and play’ last year. Our goal is to have a fully managed and automated environment.

By using the capability of Dimension Data’s managed services, we can focus less on the routine tasks that keep things running smoothly and more on the kind of innovation that enables our client, Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.), to meet its goal of using technology to revolutionise the viewing experience  of the race.

How I get to do really cool tech stuff at the Tour de France

From collection, to analysis, to visualisation, the Tour de France solution tells a full data innovation story

Manage Centre: where it all happens

With so much to keep an eye on at any given time, we need a holistic view of what’s going on anywhere in the IT estate. Keeping us sane is Manage Centre, a web-based portal that gives us a clear view of the complex set-up of physical and virtual equipment and technology services we’re responsible for. It also provides accurate, real-time systems information, which helps us to meet SLAs and run more efficiently with what we have.

How I get to do really cool tech stuff at the Tour de France

Manage Centre gives you a holistic view of what’s going on anywhere in the IT estate

Instant notifications for immediate action

We also have the benefit of ongoing monitoring and instant notifications. We can see when a server needs to be rebooted, for example, or when a network cable has been dislodged, which is what happened in 2015 – we weren’t receiving telemetry data successfully and couldn’t figure out why. You can imagine the frantic run-around to get to the bottom of this! Fortunately, this had happened before the race started and we could reconnect in time.

In 2016, there was a network conflict between two of our trucks, which was also difficult to discover. These are the kinds of issues that can easily happen in a complicated environment like the Tour de France tech zone with so many other trucks and teams around! With Manage Centre, we can now pinpoint exactly where these issues are and remedy them quickly. Among other things, this really helps keep our stress levels down.

Progressive improvement: 2015 to 2018

Each year, following a brief post-Tour recovery period, we’ve looked at ways to enhance the management of our service delivery. Here’s how these services have evolved during our time as the Official Technology Partner of A.S.O.:

Year 1 (2015): The big data truck

We used the Dimension Data Managed Cloud Platform and had a traditional data centre setup in our big data truck, complete with network switches and storage.

Year 2 (2016): The hyperconverged data centre

Life on the road looked a bit different as we now had hyperconverged infrastructure, with elements of the data centre in the cloud.

Year 3 (2017): The cloud and collaboration hub

In 2017 we migrated everything to the cloud and started layering on additional services, namely:

  • Managed Services for Data Centre for managing virtual machines and software services
  • Managed Network Services for the data truck and Customer Experience Centre
  • Managed Services for Visual Communications for the advanced collaboration applications used by our various teams, such as dev ops and social media

Year 4 (2018): The power of predictive security

Using real-time data to engage fans means building security that are as light and strong as the bikes on the road: they have to protect the data without slowing down the systems that process it. This year we’ll be adding our managed security services to the environment, which will give us a view of our entire security toolset in one place. The service also offers greater predictive capabilities than we’ve had before, which means we’ll be able to proactively defend the environment from identified attacks.

How I get to do really cool tech stuff at the Tour de France

The big data truck evolved from being a mobile data centre in 2015 to a cloud services and collaboration hub in 2017

Automation and simplification make room for innovation

By using managed services, we’ve seen a dramatic improvement in our operational efficiency. We’re able to do things faster, with fewer resources on the ground. We can quickly attend to those inevitable glitches, which is obviously an advantage when you’re responsible for the technology behind such a high-profile event.

The greatest benefit, though, is being able to spend less time and energy on the core elements that underpin our services, and more on the cool stuff these services enable us, and our client, to do.

This is something we see in any business that adopts a managed services approach effectively: with routine tasks taken care of, skilled resources are freed up to focus on IT transformation and innovation that can help the business achieve its strategic objectives. It’s not so much about doing more with less, but being able to do more with what you have.

It’s been a great ride for our technical team so far and we’re looking forward to the next stage!

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