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Using a combination of virtualization technology and management software, IBM was able to radically pare down the number of servers needed to host the Web site for this year’s U.S. Open.

The Armonk, N.Y., company is using its Virtualization Engine in concert with software such as its Enterprise Workload Manager to reduce the number of servers needed for the event from 60 to nine, even as the U.S. Tennis Association continues to add features to its Web site.

IBM and the USTA have been working together for about 15 years, with IBM, among other things, hosting the Web site for the U.S. Open, one of tennis’ Grand Slam tournaments. This year’s event in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 10.

Prior to this year, the computer maker used a mixture of Power-based System p and Intel-based System x servers, said John Kent, program manager for sponsorship marketing at IBM. Now the computer maker is using nine p550 Express servers, a two- to four-socket system with a host of software and middleware preloaded.

The nine servers are divided up evenly between three different sites across the country, a way of adding redundancy to the hosted system, Kent said.

The virtualization technology enables IBM to consolidate multiple applications onto single physical servers, saving floor space and—because there are fewer machines—cutting power and cooling costs.

“Like every other data center, floor space, power and cooling are part of the cost,” Kent said. “When we moved to the p550s, we saved on power and cooling.”

IBM uses the three sites to host other events as well, including other Grand Slam tennis tournaments, the Masters golf tournament and the Tony Awards, Kent said.

Virtualization is becoming a key technology for businesses looking to reduce the number of systems in their data centers. In an Aug. 31 report, research company Enterprise Management Associates said that almost 75 percent of businesses surveyed had deployed virtualization technology, with some 64 percent using it in their application server environments and 47 percent for Web serving.

Sixty-five percent said a key reason was server consolidation, though business continuity and disaster recovery were the top concerns.

For the USTA, the need was being able to add new features to the site while ensuring it would remain up and running during the heavy traffic of the tournament’s two weeks, said Jeff Volk, director of advanced media for the tennis organization.

“We do as much traffic in the 14 days of the U.S. Open as we do over several months otherwise,” Volk said.

During the two-week tournament in 2005, the Web site saw 4.5 million unique users and more than 21 million hits, about 50 times the traffic normally seen, he said.

Among the new features added to the site this year include an updated PointTracker, an IBM-developed technology that enables site visitors to see the shot trail and ball trajectory during live matches. The updates include 3-D-like models of the Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong courts and archives to enable users to watch matches that already have been played.

Other enhancements include an updated On Demand Scoreboard application for live scoring and statistics during matches, and the online availability of statistics related to the instant replay technology being used for the first time at the tournament.

The overall goal, Volk said, is to determine “the best way for the site to bring the game closer to the fans.”

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