A behind-the-scenes peek at the most-attended sporting event in the world
When the U.S. Open kicks off on August 26 it will draw millions of tennis enthusiasts from all over the world for two intense weeks of non-stop world-class tennis action. Fans will watch events unfold not only at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, but also through an integrated online, mobile and social experience delivering real-time play-by-play action, live video streaming and live match scores and statistics, ensuring that every fan experiences the thrill and excitement on center court. I am proud to say that for more than 20 years, the US Open is relying on IBM as the end-to-end IT provider to enable and deliver this interactive experience though a myriad of fan-facing technologies.
Understanding that it is not possible for all tennis fans to make it to New York for the matches, it is a priority for the USTA (United States Tennis Association), the governing board for tennis in the United States, to provide content and information to them any way they want at any time of day or night. To support the USTA’s goal, IBM delivers the US Open experience to fans through the digital platform, and maintains uninterrupted availability of service throughout the event.
The capabilities provided to US Open tennis fans continue to expand. To name a few, there is the popular SlamTracker application that provides real-time scoring to fans for all matches. IBM’s “Keys to the Match” analysis is built into the SlamTracker application. The Keys’ are generated by using IBM predictive analytics software to analyze over 41 million data points from the past eight years of Grand Slam data for all men’s and women’s matches. This feature helps fans understand the important things a player must do to increase the likelihood of winning a match. And, mobile support has been expanded to include iPads as well as iPhone and Android devices. Fans that are physically at an event or watching the US Open on television at home often want access to digital information, to join the conversation on social media and to achieve a greater sense of control. The US Open “second screen” experience enables more fan interaction.
Social Media Insights Enhance Fan Experience and System Availability
IBM’s analysis at the Open has expanded to encompass social media. This helps to determine the most popular players, and aids IBM in ascertaining - as play is in progress - the matches that are likely to have the greatest fan traffic.
Behind the scenes, we are using IBM analytics to predict, allocate and monitor capacity in the Cloud. By analyzing tournament, player and social data, the system continuously predicts traffic expected to the Web site and automatically allocates or deallocates the appropriate resources. Applying predictive analytics in the cloud enhances the online user experience. Since we can optimize projections in order to add or reduce capacity, everyone can have an optimal experience. It also helps save dollars since allocating capacity only when its needed means servers aren’t sitting idle when they are not needed. All of our systems are able to generate highly accurate forecasts of how much traffic to expect, but we also look at our log history and social media discussions to figure out if there is spike in interest around a certain match that may translate into a rapid need for additional capacity.
A great example of the insight social media can provide is the Australian Open in 2012 when a match between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal went on for nearly six hours. As it continued, it became clear that this was one of the longest finals matches in Grand Slam history. Once that happened, people started tweeting about it, and social media discussions sprang up. This drove additional traffic to the website because people wanted to witness it themselves.
Elastic Capacity Enabled by IBM and Open Source Technologies
The elastic capacity of the IT infrastructure supporting the US Open is made possible by the IBM SmartCloud technologies. This enables fast creation and dynamic allocation of resources transparently to users, while also supporting real time access. The US Open cloud environment includes virtualized IBM servers, software and storage across the globe, and supports the continuous availability and scalability required. The capabilities provided by IBM Monitoring optimize workloads and provide visibility necessary to allocate resources and more intelligently plan future growth.
Like most big shops, we are not homogeneous. We rely on our own IBM technologies and open source. Real-time and historical data analytics is enabled by IBM Smarter Analytics which is a combination of products including IBM InfoSphere BigInsights built on top of Apache Hadoop and IBM InfoSphere Streams. We also use a variety of servers, including both IBM Power Systems and IBM System x, for our cloud. And, we use a mix of operating systems. We rely on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and AIX. We have different capabilities that we must support and which require different operating systems. Cloud enables us to do that very easily. We also use the KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) hypervisor to manage our virtual machines on System x – and IBM has just announced that KVM on Power will soon become available.
The reality is that each platform has its own attributes and that is why we include them in the mix. For example, Power‘s Logical Partitioning (LPAR) divides a server’s resources into virtual “logical” partitions, and we continually take advantage of the LPAR mobility aspect of Power Systems. Power allows us to migrate live workloads from one physical frame to another without any impact. If we have a failure on one of our machines, we can do what we call “frame evacuation,” and move all the running servers including the databases to another machine, then make a repair, and move them back. You can do this on the fly in the middle of the day, in the middle of a peak match, without any impact to the business and, for us, that is critical.
The good news is that when the US Open happens in Flushing Meadows starting this week, tennis fans will have the highest quality experience possible, whether they are at the Tennis Center in person, or monitoring the matches online. Even better news is that all of these technologies can be applied to a wide range of use cases across many industries and are available today.
You can learn more at: http://www.ibm.com/usopen
Software Engineer and Master Inventor, IBM