IBM Puts Linux Swing into Wimbledon

As Wimbledon gets underway, those who did not get a seat for the matches will not have to miss a single swing. IBM has implemented a Linux-based system to power the Web technologies that will be accessed by tennis fans who want to follow the action online.

IBM installed Linux-powered Tivoli Intelligent ThinkDynamic Orchestrator to handle Web site traffic. Wimbledon’s site features two types of Web cams, as well as a real-time scoreboard, so site users can access a variety of information easily.

The choice of IBM was a natural one, said Jeff Lucas, IT director of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), the organization that puts on Wimbledon. In an interview with LinuxInsider, Lucas said, “IBM’s relationship is very important, as they are a world leader in their field. There is synergy between them and The Club, which has grown in stature over the last 15 years.”

Traffic Control

One of the main reasons that the AELTC looks to IBM is that, for a two-week period every year, the organization must grow from a small group into an e-business that caters to an audience of millions.

According to IBM, in 2002 there were more than 2.6 million unique visitors from 165 different countries accessing the official Wimbledon site during the matches.

“Linux was chosen by IBM for our internal intranet system, which supports the scalability requirements,” Lucas said. “Of course, this is very important for an event such as ours which has large peaks and troughs.”

To satisfy the desire for real-time information from tennis-hungry fans, IBM is providing several different services to the AELTC, including on-site information displays, Web site hosting, online shopping and a PDA-optimized version of the official site.

At the core of the technology used to serve the Wimbledon site are IBM eServers xSeries running Linux, as well as eServers running AIX. According to IBM, the combination of Linux and AIX allows for greater flexibility and scalability than other configurations.

What’s the Score?

Another major Linux component in the championships is the IBM real-time scoreboard, which pushes live scores directly to user desktops. In 2002, over 4.2 million users opted to use this service.

The scoreboard uses an IBM DB2 Universal Database for Linux, which acts as a central data hub. The IBM Internet scoring systems access the scores and other statistics in the database and publish the information to the xSeries servers supporting the Web site.

The scoring database also uses IBM WebSphere MQ Event Broker technology to generate the real-time scoring feed simultaneously for both the real-time scoreboard and the other scoring pages on the Wimbledon site.

IBM actually introduced the DB2 Universal Database for Linux at Wimbledon in 1999.

Game, Set, Match

IBM has been providing technology and consulting services for Wimbledon since 1990. Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio told LinuxInsider that the partnership with the AELTC is proof that IBM is serious about “eating its own dog food.”

“They have a real initiative going to use Linux internally and externally, which is part of trying to knock Microsoft out of the box,” she said.

Powering Wimbledon makes for a nice case study, she added, and a high-profile one at that. “Wimbledon is a showy example, and one that gets Linux a lot of attention,” DiDio said. She also said that it is worth noting that Linux is being used for a European sporting event: “Europe has been very Linux friendly, and has paid attention to open source for a while.”

She added, “Using Linux at Wimbledon is also evidence that Linux is becoming more and more mainstream.”

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