Every year for the past 14 years, IBM has delivered an information technology (IT) solution that allows the USTA to concentrate on its core mission of promoting tennis in the US and building the US Open brand around the world. The end-to-end IBM solution includes equipment, services, and expertise that provide an integrated scoring system for match results and statistics collection which feed real-time results to TV broadcasters around the globe and via the Internet, as well as on site at the physical location of the US Open in Flushing Meadows, New York.
The stakes are high, as a few key stats from last year's event suggest:
- The US Open is the largest single sporting event in the world. In 2004 more than 632,000 spectators and 1,600 members of the international media attended the event during the tournament's two-week duration
- The US Open is broadcast to over 90 million viewers in the US alone, and aired coverage to over 199 broadcasters in 2004
- In 2004, the US Open Web site saw 15.4 million unique visits and over 95 million page views
In short, much of the world is keeping their eyes on the US Open.
In the remainder of this post, we'll take a quick stadium view of the machines behind the matches which optimize the USTA IT solution's performance, both on and off the court.
Break Point: The Servers
The IT infrastructure for the tournament is needed primarily for the peak demand that occurs during two weeks out of 52. In fact, it would be downright inefficient for the USTA to maintain such a massive, dedicated infrastructure exclusively to the US Open for the rest of the year, as they don't need the excess capacity outside the tournament window.
The engine of many IT infrastructures these days is based around Web servers, and the US Open is no exception. But think of the IBM server infrastructure that powers the US Open as "the mother of all Web servers." It consists of multiple, geographically dispersed server farms which are "virtualized" as one, and then used to handle the ever-fluctuating traffic demands that occur during the tournament.
The infrastructure has to be able to scale to the peak demand (think Andre Agassi meeting Pete Sampras in a semi-finals match), just as Amazon.Com has to be prepared for the post-Thanksgiving online shopping rush or CNN.com prepared for a major breaking news story. If it doesn't, no match scores go out, resulting in lots of unhappy broadcasters and tennis aficionados around the globe.
The following components make up the core of the US Open server solution. They provide the backbone for simultaneous delivery of live scores and management of the global server complex, the development and publishing of content on the US Open Web site, and the recording of interviews with players and coaches:
At the core of the technology used to bring fans the 2005 US Open Web site is an IBM eServer 520 system running Linux on POWER and i5/OS, which consolidates multiple servers and integrates applications. The POWER5 processor and IBM virtualization engine increase the performance of the US Open infrastructure while reducing its overall costs.
The IBM eServer xSeries running Linux supports the HTTP Web serving and WebSphere Event Broker (the product that facilitates the timely distribution of scores).
The IBM eServer pSeries 615 running AIX supports the critical infrastructure monitoring functions, while the pSeries p5-550 and p5-570 with Linux LPARs support HTTP Web serving and AIX LPARs key WebSphere-based Applications (including the NetPoll, Player Search, and Feedback mechanism) at one of three hosting locations.
The Virtual Web Service
The real power behind the 5 POWER5-based servers is the "virtualization engine," which allow IBM and the USTA to do more computing with less resources. Think of virtualized servers as seasonal employees who work full time. Instead of having them sit around between peaks in demand, you "pool" them together and maximize the utilization of their labor all the time.
Essentially, virtualization provides ways to "abstract" physical resources, which allows the servers to be accessed as a grouping of logical resources. This enables improved IT utilization, information and people assets by treating resources as a single pool and more efficiently accessing and managing those resources across an organization by effect and need, rather than their physical location.
By eliminating the need to dedicate an entire infrastructure to one particular function, IBM and the USTA create an enormous amount of flexibility as to which IT resources they use for what, ultimately helping to make the entire environment easier to manage and optimize, and resulting in lower overall costs.
Next post, we'll take a look at how IBM technology helps the USTA keep score during the tournament.