Virtualization tools provide net savings to tennis tour

IBM tools cut Web hosting costs by more than 23% since 2004

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FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. -- Since 2005, IBM has used virtualization technologies to distribute data processing workloads between three IT centers it uses to manage traffic for the U.S. Tennis Association's (USTA)  Web site, significantly cutting hosting costs.

Since installing the IBM Virtualization Engine product two years ago, IBM said the Web site has easily handled massive increases in traffic during the USTA's annual two-week U.S. Open tournament while cutting IT infrastructure costs by more than 23% since 2004.

IBM runs the Web site under contract with the USTA. The association's 2007 tournament is slated to end this Sunday.

John J. Kent, a program manager at IBM's Worldwide Sponsorship Marketing group in Boston, said the virtualization hardware and software has allowed it to distributes data processes across three sites to ensure that the Web site remains available during the tournament. He noted that the site attracted more than 26 million visitors during the 2006 tournament, 2 million more than the previous year.

The site was able to support the increased use despite a flat IT budget, Kent added.

Each of the three IT centers houses three IBM P5-550 servers, which run a combination of IBM AIX and Linux applications used to support the Web site. Over the past 12 to 18 months, IBM has been incrementally adding Tivoli virtualization software to the further boost the capabilities of the computing environment, said Kristina Kloberdanz, a manager at IBM's Worldwide Sponsorship Marketing group in New York.

Prior to the start of this year's U.S. Open last week, IBM installed the Tivoli Provisioning Manager product to help its support team automatically provision software to 18 dispersed Web servers, said Kent. By using the provisioning software, IBM reduced the time it took to configure the servers while paring labor costs, he added.

"We're not sure how much time it has saved us, but it is definitely helping," said Kent. IBM is trying to determine how best to measure the time saved through the use of the automated tools. "Some of it is subjective," he acknowledged.

IBM has also used virtualization tools to add similar capabilities to sites it runs for other professional tennis tournaments, including Wimbledon, the French Open and the Australian Open. IBM credits the technology with cutting the cost per visit at each site by 40% since 2004.

In addition to the time and cost savings, the use of virtualization technologies has allowed the USTA to add more content to the Web site, Kent said. For instance, IBM Slam Tracker, a dashboard that lets visitors follow their favorite players, watch live matches in progress and receive real-time scoring updates, was added this year.

"We need to be providing fans more content [on] because there are more sources where they can get [information]," said Kent.

"Our goal is to bring a more enriched experience to tennis fans," said Jeffrey Volk, USTA director of advanced media in White Plains, N.Y. Volk said IBM's use of the virtualization technologies has enabled him to concentrate on other facets of the tournament.

"I don't need to worry about a traffic spike," said Volk. "I know [IBM will] handle it."

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