Virtualization serves US Open Web site

Since the first serve of the 2005 U.S. Open Tennis Championships on Monday, IBM has been using virtualization technologies to distribute data processing workloads between the three IT centers managing traffic to the Web site.

Traffic to the tourney Web site has skyrocketed from about 100,000 visits in 1995 to more than 15.4 million last year, said Adalio Sanchez, general manager of IBM’s pSeries. IBM, which has been the official IT provider to the U.S. Tennis Association for the past 14 years, is utilizing its IBM Virtualization Engine technology to distribute its AIX 5L and Linux workloads for the event, said Sanchez.

The IBM Virtualization Engine, which IBM tested at Wimbledon in June, is now deployed in the three U.S. data centers that support the U.S. Open Web site. If one center runs out of processor capacity — something that could occur if traffic to the site intensifies during a popular match — workloads can be simultaneously shifted to another site, said Sanchez.

“Since we sponsor all four Grand Slam events, it gives us the opportunity to test different things out at one and then apply them at another,” said Kristina Kloberdanz, a manager in IBM’s Worldwide Sponsorship Marketing group.

The virtualization technologies, which allow IBM to share I/O, memory and CPU capacity between servers, is one component of the company’s efforts to improve the efficiency of the IT systems it hosts for the USTA, said Karl Freund, vice president of pSeries product marketing for IBM in Austin, Texas.

For instance, IBM is in the process of consolidating 14 servers to just two IBM P5 servers to support the four Grand Slam events, The Masters Golf Tournament and The Tony Awards, said John Kent, program manager for IBM’s Worldwide Sponsorship Marketing group.

Kent said the transition to the IBM P5-550 and P5-570 machines should be completed in time for the 2006 Australian Open, which begins in January. The efficiency gains are expected to save IBM money in its support of the USTA’s IT operations, said Rick Singer, vice president of IBM Worldwide Sponsorship Marketing. Under IBM’s sponsorship deal with the tennis association, said Singer, “if the technology costs outweighed the value received, we wouldn’t continue it.”

“Our goal is to constantly grow our business,” said Jeff Volk, USTA director of advanced media in White Plains, N.Y. The USTA’s relationship with IBM “allows us to do that,” he said.

IBM introduced another technological innovation at this year’s U.S. Open. Visitors to the Web site can use a real-time system called Point Tracker to view a graphical re-creation of each stroke. On-court cameras capture and record the ball position for each shot during a match, and that data is then fed into the IBM scoring system. Once the information is integrated with the scoring data, the information about each shot is sent to the Web site for fans to view. That way, fans unable to watch a match live can use the Point Tracker to see how each point was played — and won.

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