Olympics Shine With Silverlight

By Carolyn Braff

NBCOlympics.com garnered 70 million page views on 8/8/08 an increase of 900 percent and 10 times more than the opening day of the Athens Games in 2004 (7 million). The 70 million page views are nearly 50 million more page views than the peak day in Athens (Day 4, 20.6 million) and also mean that Microsoft Silverlight will be pushed to the limit. Standing firmly behind NBC’s pledge to deliver more than 2,200 hours of streaming content from the Beijing Olympics, Microsoft’s web-based media player through which sports fans will be watching all of that content. “I don’t think we’re still scrambling, but I’d be remiss in saying we’re not still stressed,” says Brian Goldfarb, product manager in Microsoft’s developer division for development platforms. “I look at the capacity and everything we’ve been able to do with the infrastructure and I feel very good about it.”

The Silverlight team can feel even better after completing some live tests before the official start of the Games. A handful of official Olympic soccer and basketball events took place earlier this week, before the Opening Ceremonies, giving Microsoft some golden opportunities to test the system before the full food of broadband users hits.

“We’ve been able to get some road on the system and work out a couple of the last minute kinks,” Goldfarb explains. “We’re feeling incredibly confident in our ability to deliver a virtually flawless experience.”

Anticipating up to 600,000 live streams for peak-interest events during the Games, Microsoft enlisted the help of additional bandwidth from Limelight, a CDN based in Phoenix, Arizona, to help cushion some of the expected demand for the largest online event in the history of the Internet.

“We have a great relationship with our major CDN partners, Akamai, Limelight and others, so this is not a first step; this is just one of many that we’ve had in the past,” Goldfarb explains.

The first live implementation of Silverlight’s Olympic portal began with the Olympic Trials earlier this summer, but the true test of strength comes Friday night when the Opening Ceremonies begin. There are no additional bells or whistles planned to accompany the opening stream, just a commitment to deliver every minute of everything that takes place during the Games.

“We’re treating everything as a first-class citizen,” Goldfarb says. “It’s going to be an interesting scenario where people experience the future of converged technology for the first time, breaking out of the TV box that everyone is used to today.”

Silverlight’s Control Room feature will help viewers break out of that box by offering five simultaneous feeds side by side, putting the viewer in the producer’s chair.

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