UEFA changes the game with private cloud adoption
The remodeling of UEFA Euro 2016 venue, the Marseille Vélodrome
Image: UEFA
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UEFA changes the game with private cloud adoption

Jim Mortleman — July 2014

The head of IT at European soccer’s governing body outlines how the rise of mobile computing has triggered a switch to private cloud.

For UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe, the cloud computing model — with its promise of elasticity and pay-as-you-go pricing — has quickly become a vital mechanism for delivering operational efficiency and improved services.

E DanielMarion Source UEFA


Responsible for both European club matches and international fixtures, the Switzerland-headquartered organization may operate on a not-for-profit basis but its focus is firmly on generating revenue, says Daniel Marion, head of UEFA’s information and communication technology group. And that has meant finding ever-more efficient ways to deliver IT against a backdrop of wildly fluctuating demand.

His 80-strong group is the organization’s single biggest internal unit, but when the European Championships come round every four years their challenge is to service the IT needs of the roughly 8,000 people who work on the event.

“During the UEFA Euro 2016 [which will be held across 10 venues in France] we have to be able to scale our operations massively for a very short space of time,” says Marion. “And of course, it’s imperative that core services don’t go down. If something fails at the wrong time, there’s no chance to recover,” says Marion.

The range of services Marion’s team is responsible for coordinating spans all of UEFA’s internal operations, ticketing systems, TV feeds for broadcasters, event logistics (such as transport and hospitality for players, sponsors and service partners), as well as ensuring fans can access timely results, background statistics, photography, video and other information over the web. “When you’re dealing with lots of different cultures, countries, companies and consumers, ensuring all this works out smoothly is very challenging indeed,” he says.

“For us, public cloud is about convenience and private cloud is about confidence.”

Although the organization has historically outsourced most of its infrastructure to traditional managed service providers, Marion says UEFA is now increasingly standardizing on private cloud. And that strategic shift has come about in large part because of the rise of mobile computing.

“The smartphone and tablet have changed everything,” he says. With varying periods of demand for services, moving application services to the cloud model was inevitable, he says. “When you need large amounts of connectivity in 90-minute bursts, you don’t want to spend too much money [to make those expensive resources permanently available]. That means having the ability to scale up and down elastically.”

As well as 100% availability, security is also vital for core services, he stresses, which means using private rather than public cloud. “People say the public cloud works all the time, just like electricity. But we don’t even put all of our trust in such public utilities — in fact, we always bring our own generators to matches. So while we use software-as-a-service (SaaS) in the public cloud for some non-core services like file sharing, our core apps are largely running on private cloud. For us, public cloud is about convenience and private cloud is about confidence,” says Marion.

Cloud-enabled mobility has already dramatically improved internal efficiencies. The use of tablet devices has eliminated many users’ need to print documents, for example. In addition, staff working in the stadiums can now access services such as the UEFA photo library quickly and easily from their devices, simultaneously streamlining UEFA’s previous processes and giving a boost to staff productivity.
Changing consumption

But, increasingly, Marion believes mobility and the cloud will also present UEFA with fresh opportunities to generate revenues and deliver compelling new services for broadcast partners, sponsors and fans. For example, giving them access to ever more detailed, up-to-the-second statistics on teams, players and matches, or interactive live match feeds from a multitude of different camera angles. Then there’s the proliferation of connected sensors and devices (the emerging Internet of Things), which Marion believes will present even more opportunity to UEFA.

“All this stuff is really changing the way people consume football,” he says. “We need to be aware of what this means for the sport and the services we deliver.”

• Daniel Marion was speaking at Cloud World Forum in London. (See other CIO/CTO keynotes from the 2014 event)

First published July 2014
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