The i5 Is In Demand During the U.S. Open
September 7, 2004 Alex Woodie
Wherever Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova goes during the U.S. Open in New York City this week, a gaggle of reporters and photographers is sure to follow, creating a media feeding frenzy only possible in the Big Apple. But on the court, things are a bit more civil, thanks in part to a new eServer i5 system from IBM that can dish out tennis scores and Sharapova photos to millions of adoring fans and media types over the U.S. Open Web site, in real time.
For the 13th straight year, IBM Global Services is providing technology for the United States Tennis Association’s U.S. Open tennis tournament in Flushing Meadow, New York. This year, IBM decided to consolidate the Linux-based scoring and Web publishing applications that had been running on three Intel-based servers onto a new eServer i5 Model 520.
The 520 has been carved into at least three logical partitions, two of which run Novell‘s 64-bit SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 for Power, and one for i5/OS, which has been relegated to administrative desk duty this time around.
The process starts on the tennis court, where the chair umpire records each point by entering it into an IBM-branded Palm PDA. Data from the PDA is then uploaded into a DB2-based scoring and statistics system running on the i5.
The Linux-based database then feeds a content management and publishing system running on a four-way Linux-based xSeries Model 365, which is connected to the i5 through a high-speed Integrated xSeries Adapter (IXA) card. This application is based on WebSphere Portal Content Publisher and is used by a group of 30 United States Tennis Association writers, editors, producers and audio/video engineers, who approve and generate the content for the U.S. Open Web site.
Finally, the content generated by the United States Tennis Association is fed back to the second Linux partition on the i5, where another WebSphere application operates as a staging server. This staging server combines data from the DB2-based scoring system with content generated by the United States Tennis Association to create the finished U.S. Open Web pages.
IBM chose to keep an xSeries in the loop so compute-intensive document preparation and approval tasks wouldn’t burden the applications running on the i5, which are critical to getting data and photos to fans and the press covering the event. Last year, the site handled an average of 35 articles, 80 photos, and 12 hours of broadband programming per day. With Wimbledon winner Sharapova in town, could it possibly go down?
IBM has done some nifty things with the Web site. For example, you can monitor matches in real time, and you can even see the speed of the last serve. Andy Roddick has clocked the fasted serve for this year’s Open, a 152-mph blast in his first game. In Sharapova’s last match, a hard-fought victory over Jelena Jankovic, she consistently served fastest to the right side of the court, the site’s statistics show.
The U.S. Open Web site had more than 15 million visits in 2003, and most of them occurred during the two week event. Because of the spikes in viewership that could be expected to occur this year, the United States Tennis Association wanted a computer that could meet anything thrown at it (maybe even a 152-mph Andy Roddick serve, if the urban legends are true). “We needed a system that is reliable, flexible, and secure to keep up with the constant activity and excitement of the tournament,” says Ezra Kucharz, who is managing director of the advanced media division of the United States Tennis Association. “For us, the eServer i5 was the best choice for our needs.”
All told, IBM claims to have cut the United States Tennis Association’s server-related costs by 40 percent by consolidating the xSeries onto the i5, due to the reduced disk requirements and more efficient workload processing. When the U.S. Open is over, IBM plans to allocate the servers to workloads for other clients, including running protein folding and credit scoring applications.
IBM is also using the occasion to grab a little airtime for its iSeries.MySeries marketing campaign. There are i5 advertisements on the U.S. Open Web site, TV commercials airing in the New York metro area, a neat Flash tennis game you can play on the IBM iSeries site, and two billboards mounted on trucks that are driving around the city, trumpeting the iSeries’ real-time role at the Open. Surely, Maria Sharapova is jealous.