Article

Server consolidation, virtualization give U.S. Open the advantage

Mark Fontecchio

IBM cut the number of servers it uses to power the U.S. Open Tennis Championships Web site this year by 85%, from 60 servers down to nine.

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Using a combination of System p and System i servers, IBM was able to use virtualization technologies to reduce the server footprint and, according to the U.S. Tennis Association, make USOpen.org easier to run. As a result, tennis fans can sit in the comfort of their own homes and track scores, stats, and even watch the track of the ball for each individual point in matches held at two main courts.

IBM has partnered with the U.S. Open -- held in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., last week and this week -- and the tennis association since 1992. It's not quite as long as the retiring Andre Agassi has been playing, but it's pretty close.

"IBM supporting the U.S. Open is tremendous," said Jeffrey Volk, director of advanced media at the USTA. "One of the great things about the relationship, being a partner for so long, is they really understand our needs."

In 2005, the Web site saw about 4.5 million users over the course of the two-week tournament, a 60% increase over the 2.8 million users from the previous year. So officials were expecting another jump in Web traffic this year.

The backbone of the operation is the Power5-based System p5 550 servers with AIX and Linux partitions. The AIX partitions run applications such as player search and feedback options, while Linux runs WebSphere and other Web-serving applications. All of it is hosted from a virtualized server environment at one of IBM's hosting locations.

Meanwhile, IBM has two Power5-based System i5 520 servers running Linux at the event -- a primary and a backup -- that host the Web site's scoring system and the publisher application, which allows officials to see what the site will look like before it goes live online.

The PointTracker system allows Web viewers to see the angles and speeds of shots made by the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Amelie Mauresmo as they seek a Grand Slam tennis championship.

The PointTracker system is made possible by a technology called Hawkeye, which involves having 10 cameras set around the tennis court that can track the trajectory of the ball. That data can be replayed in 3-D models on the video boards at the court if a player is challenging a call, on the Web for those at home or integrated on a DVD with other statistics so that players can review their match minutes after they end. "We try to stay ahead of the curve," Volk said. "It's about bringing tennis closer to the fans. The site you see now is really built around getting information to the user that they want."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer


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