IBM Cloud Drives the Digital Experience of The Masters Tournament

By: Jason McGee

Augusta National and IBM are partnering to deliver content on the Masters Digital Platforms

At 26, Shugo Ihamhira will play for the first time in the Masters Tournament this week in Augusta, Georgia. In extending a special invitation to the Japan Tour 2018 Order of Merit winner, Augusta National Golf Club put an emphasis on the tournament’s broad international appeal. Indeed, in the last round of the tournament in 2018, an estimated 13 million television viewers across 200 countries watched the dramatic turns that ended with the famous green jacket being placed on the shoulders of Patrick Reed.

Total viewership for the Masters is cumulatively much higher if we consider the Masters Digital Platforms, which Augusta National and IBM have partnered to deliver for more than 20 years.

Always an opportunity to innovate

Each year, IBM and the Augusta National digital team collaborate on better ways to serve patrons by digitally augmenting their experience. In the 2019 Master Tournament, to fluidly and scalably achieve sub-second delivery of frequently updated tournament content while digital visitors watch live feeds, follow their favorite players, and check tee times, IBM will invisibly integrate content publishing tools in multiple private clouds with content retrieval microservices in globally distributed public IBM Cloud sites.

The hybrid cloud deployments that deliver masters.com in 2019 include five main application components:

  • A set of page applications that users can access across multiple device types

  • A geographically-aware third-party Content Delivery Network (CDN)

  • A Related Content API for retrieving the most relevant media related to the visitor’s current page context

  • Content preparation and publishing applications

  • Content feeds (scores, broadcast video, news, and images)

The broadcast/press building is located at Augusta National. Content preparation and publishing happens on-premise and is distributed to the world via public IBM Cloud sites.

Except for the CDN and feed, IBM Cloud technologies drive the digital platforms for The Masters. The publishing applications encode and tag ingested media and use Urban Code Deploy with Chef to push the latest content and its metadata to the CDN and Related Content API, respectively. Using the community threat awareness of X-Force Exchange, QRadar vigilantly defends against intrusions, ensures that suspicious code does not make its way into the production parts of the system, and flags threats that Watson for Cyber Security analyzes.

The Related Content API sits between publishing and serving applications and consists of two related microservices: Content and Tag. Each provides a different way to filter searches of the current content inventory to identify the most relevant matches. Based on the visitor’s current location on masters.com, the page application constructs a query with specific tags.

For example, a page for the 8th hole sends a query with the tags “hole + player.” Related Content sends back all video content of that player on a particular hole in a clip order the reflects the progression of play. Or, let’s say we visit a player’s profile page; the page queries Related Content for all content tagged with the player’s name and receives the most relevant and current highlights.

At the frontend, to deepen a page’s experience, masters.com serves related content based on a visitor’s current focus. If possible, the CDN responds with content it has previously served for the query. As needed, if the most relevant content is stale—based on expiration time—the CDN queries Related Content for the most current match.

Deep experience with high-scale Kubernetes workloads

The Related Content API lives on the IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service in the public cloud. A declared configuration tells the Kubernetes platform exactly how the Content and Tag microservices are to be deployed in pods and clusters and on worker nodes. Any departure from that configuration results in automatic corrective action. This relieves the operations team of manual intervention.

As IT veterans are painfully aware, human error often creates issues in production deployments. Similarly, because remediating problems under pressure requires greater care, adept ops people tend to slow down during a crisis. In contrast, a great operational benefit of Kubernetes is its efficient self-healing. The same .yaml configuration that tells the Kubernetes platform how to automatically deploy an application also serves as point of truth against which operational errors are logged. And yes, the same configuration serves as its own runbook for automatically fixing those errors.

For overall availability, and to better handle the international traffic, the Related Content API is replicated and colocated with the masters.com page applications at the same four public IBM Cloud sites.

At this point in its evolution, the IBM Cloud itself mainly runs on Kubernetes. As Related Content does for masters.com, most Watson services in the IBM Cloud catalog—190+ services—expose an API endpoint that is backed by Kubernetes-deployed microservices.

To enrich the user experience of their digital business customers and avoid disruptive latency, application development teams who use Watson services on the IBM Cloud platform must consistently get data back from those services in milliseconds. The IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service ensures that happens at high scale, with wide geographical distribution, and during traffic spikes.

From the Masters to your business

As you watch and relive the play this year, keep in mind that IBM Cloud platform technologies are flexibly ready to help take the user experience of your own customer-facing applications to the next level. That applies whether you intend to develop new apps cloud-natively or need to resolve technical debt in modernizing existing apps to take advantage of cloud-driven performance, resiliency, horizontal scalability, and security. Either way, the IBM Cloud platform has the versatility and combination of services you’ll need to rapidly execute and sustain your plans for user experience innovations.

Both small and large organizations have come to realize that how apps are developed is the key to unlocking the core benefits of the cloud. The IBM Cloud Garage program specializes in helping all the internal stakeholders of a business unify their vision and purpose in serving their customers with digital experiences.

Learn more about the IBM Cloud Garage and set up a free consultation

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