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The U.S. Open Tennis Tournament and Cloud Technology

Sporting events are an ideal application for cloud technology

At VMWorld, a marketing executive from a technology company asked me what kinds of workloads were inappropriate for the cloud with today's technology. Core banking and manufacturing execution systems immediately came to mind. Banks do not want their security compromised, and manufacturing plants do not want any downtime. Current cloud technology is not ideally suited for these applications.

On the other hand, after watching US Open online and noticing that it was powered by IBM, I wondered how such an event could be architected to take full advantage of cloud technology.

While watching the finals stream to my laptop, I thought, "How amazing that a little screen is bringing together bits of information from multiple sources."

My observations are here:

  1. Social: The match chat button at the upper right hand allows you to watch viewer comments from twitter. Combining social sentiment with analytics gives an interesting view of fan reactions to player performance.
  2. Mobile: For an aficionado who wants to keep up with action while on the move, the mobile app allows you to stay abreast of the latest action. I am sure there were many fans in the stadium gobbling every bit of network capacity by looking at real-time player statistics.
  3. Analytics: The capability to use analytics before during and after matches was interesting: the ability to visualize outcomes from the previous set (e.g. medium rallies, return points, 1st serves, etc.) brings a whole different experience. Combining analytics delivered via laptop, tablet or a mobile phone in combination with stadium attendance or TV viewing offers unique understanding of the intricacies of tennis.

Like political campaigns, sporting events occur periodically, after which the use of the IT equipment ends. Consequently, the utilization of cloud resources results in an efficient use of infrastructure.

Here are some of my observations on the IT environment used for events:

  1. Compute resources: Ideal for use in spikes as the amount needed to handle the volume of transactions can increase dramatically; video processing and analytics can overwhelm a sporting event, especially during the finals.
  2. Storage Resources: The amount of video and number of images generated at a sporting event increases significantly as an event proceeds. Since multiple users demand instantaneous information, in-memory data storage is ideal to meet this need.
  3. Network bandwidth: The amount of data capacity needed at a sports venue (in this case Flushing Meadows, New York) is massive since sports fans are using mobile devices to generate and share images/videos through social networks. At the same time, worldwide content distribution through multiple channels is ideally suited for delivery through edge networks. Use of cloud delivery is ideal to manage one-time spikes of bandwidth use.

According to IBM, Power technology is the underlying technology for the compute infrastructure distributed among three data centers. With IBM's reputation on the line as the technology provider for a highly visible sporting event, these environments have to be architected to support very challenging service levels.

Intense demands on websites are not uncommon, and there are many examples of news sites experiencing high demand during breaking news events. In another example, Google App Engine delivered content via the royal wedding website to millions of users in 2011. However, the amount of variables at the US Open required a significantly more complex cloud implementation compared to straightforward website traffic.

While US Open was a good opportunity for IBM to gain customer goodwill, it was surprising that the twitter hash tag #gamechangersibm drew little participation over the course of the tournament. If IBM can apply the experience to showcase applicability to real industry applications, it can give IBM an advantage over competition.

This post was first published on Robustcloud.com. Republished with permission.

More Stories By Larry Carvalho

Larry Carvalho runs Robust Cloud LLC, an advisory services company helping various ecosystem players develop a strategy to take advantage of cloud computing. As the 2010-12 Instructor of Cloud Expo's popular Cloud Computing Bootcamp, he has already led the bootcamp in New York, Silicon Valley, and Prague, receiving strong positive feedback from attendees about the value gained at these events. Carvalho has facilitated all-day sessions at customer locations to set a clear roadmap and gain consensus among attendees on strategy and product direction. He has participated in multiple discussion panels focused on cloud computing trends at information technology events, and he has delivered all-day cloud computing training to customers in conjunction with CloudCamps. To date, his role has taken him to clients in three continents.