At the time of Russia’s presidential election in March, allegations of election fraud were prevalent across much of the nation, as well as the world. In an attempt to legitimize the election, the Russian government authorized and provided $500 million for the deployment of about 200,000 cameras in approximately 90,000 polling stations across Russia.
Rostelecom, a Russian long-distance telephony provider, was responsible for deploying the network and server infrastructure in order to capture the 400,000 gigabytes of live steaming video and route each camera’s output to one of seven central data centers. The company also had to make sure that all videos were available to be viewed by any interested party.
Since this project involved real-time video streaming, any insufficient capacity, data loss, or latency issues would comprise the project, and thus raise legitimacy concerns over the election.
SevOne (Wilmington, Del., USA), a provider of real-time network monitoring, troubleshooting and performance reporting services, worked with Rostelecom to deploy its virtualized machine (VM) versions of its network performance management service at each of the seven data centers. The company’s network monitoring service helped provide visibility of border and internal data center routers, as well as traffic flow collection across several hundred interfaces.
The flow collection helped Rostelecom to get deeper insight into actual camera connections and the quality of the streaming service in terms of bandwidth for the “last mile,” provided by third-party regional telecom companies.
“What Russia was trying to do was legitimize their elections,” said Yama Habibzai, vice president of marketing at SevOne. “They installed two cameras per polling station, which was over 200,000 cameras...All these cameras were generating massive amounts of data across the networks so they had to essentially monitor and deliver a network that also was able to support the additional traffic. It would have probably been bad to deploy the cameras and then people go to look at the cameras and they can’t see anything because the network can’t support the data.”
SevOne spent two days deploying the VMs to the data centers across Russia. An existing monitoring product was already in place prior to the project, but would have taken a minimum of 15 minutes to run a single report, while SevOne was able to product a single report within seconds, according to Habibzai.
Providing quick visibility into the network was important considering that the event only lasted 12-14 hours. According to Vess Bakalov, senior vice president and CTO of SevOne, crews were on standby throughout the country so that they could immediately be dispatched if any repairs were needed.
“The cool thing about video is the stream is sort of a fixed bandwidth,” says Vess Bakalov, senior vice president and CTO of SevOne. “There are small variations, but for the most part you can count on [the bandwidth] being very steady. If some of the cameras or sites begin to waiver in bandwidth that was a sure sign that a problem was beginning to emerge.”
According to the company, more than 3.5 million hits took place on the election video portal.