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My day at the US Open

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Last week I was fortunate enough to spend an evening at the fantastic USTA  National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY, for an IBM Media Day event. Although the focus was on the tennis, much of the dialog concerned the technology used to drive the overall experience at the US Open.

For those not familiar, IBM has provided technology services for the US Open (and other major sporting events) for more than 20 years, each year adding the latest that IT technology has to offer. This year, IBM and the USTA rolled out an infrastructure that is built on a private cloud, delivered on five mobile platforms (plus the website) and has integrated social sentiment and analytics. Social, mobile, analytics and cloud? Sounds like a great SMAC app to me!

If you have read former blog posts of mine or followed my Twitter feed, you know I like to talk some SMAC. I believe the confluence of these technologies is what will drive a new era of application development and change the way we do enterprise computing. It is not about the capabilities used in silos, though; it is about how you can integrate the capabilities to have a truly differentiated user experience. The US Open application does this very well.

The best way to understand what I am describing is to download the app itself and as you use it think about application elements can be transferred to enterprise application development. I did this very thing, and here is my list of takeaways for the enterprise:

  • Private cloud with automated elasticity. If you have not already started transforming some of your data center to a cloud-delivered model, you should. Private clouds give you all the flexibility of a Cloud Service Provider solution but within the confines of your own data center. That is what IBM runs at the US Open, and this year introduced analytics into the architecture. IBM leverages predictive analytics to anticipate demand for the US Open infrastructure, and can scale up or scale down the compute power accordingly. Many enterprises could benefit from a similar solution for applications that have great variance in load.
  • Mobile by design. The US Open application was originally just a web-based application, but now it covers all the major mobile platforms from the same cloud-based delivery infrastructure. Last year mobile traffic accounted for almost half the volume and this year it is surely going to become the majority. Each mobile app delivers the optimal experience for the platform on which it runs, which is key to a good mobile app.
  • Integrated social sentiment. There is a rich body of data out there just waiting to be mined – and it comes from social networks. IBM and the USTA developed one way to do this in the “Social Sentiment” section of the app. Live Twitter feeds are consumed and an IBM analytics engine shows the trending sentiment for players in a match. If you are not already mining social networks for information about your company, you need to be.
  • Analytics everywhere. I have already given two examples – in the private cloud and in social sentiment – of how the US Open infrastructure uses analytics. But the possibilities are endless for both the US Open and for enterprise applications. My favorite example is the “Keys to the Match” section of the app, where eight years of historical tennis match data is mined to determine patterns and styles for players. For each match, this information is used to determine the key statistics to watch for.

My crystal ball doesn’t tell me how far in the future it will be before this type of mobile application is the norm in enterprise computing, but it does tell me it will happen. The “consumerization of IT” has created a set of expectations for what we want at work and there is no turning back. Great SMAC applications and infrastructure, like that used in the US Open, give us insights into where enterprise IT is headed.

You can follow me on Twitter @rictelford as I track a lot of the happenings in the world of SMAC, or just follow me here on Thoughts on Cloud.

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