Wimbledon: Cool Servers Score With Tennis Viewers

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Screens in Wimbledon IBM technology bunker

This year, Wimbledon goes 3D and IBM’s liquid-cooled systems serve deeper analysis to the audience

While tennis fans enjoy the speedy serves on Centre Court,  a technology bunker beneath Wimbledon will be relying on swift work from IT servers to provide their information needs.

A warren of subterranean corridors and rooms hidden beneath the All England Lawn Tennis Club is playing host to some of the most intensive data crunching IT ever used at a major sporting tournament.

IT has long been essential in many sports for precision timing, measurement and scoring, and since 1990, IBM has had a contract with the Club. IBM provides technology that can make sense of the wealth of real-time data generated during the Championships – and the deal also provides IBM with a high-profile showcase to display its skills to the world.

Alan Flack, IBM’s Wimbledon client and programme executive, told eWEEK Europe UK that the mutually beneficial relationship allows the company to refine its latest products with the Club so it can maintain its position as a top, global sporting occasion.

“IBM is responsible for every statistic and graphic you see on the BBC coverage,” he said. “That, and the 350-million-odd page views Wimbledon.com gets in the fortnight, requires a robust, scalable and highly available IT infrastructure.

“The Club is always looking to reach out to a wider, more diverse global audience. So we’re always looking at new and better ways to collect and visualise match data.”

Mastering data overload

IBM displays
Screens showing the status and temperature of Wimbledon.com IBM data centre

A 45-strong data entry team analyse each shot played point by point across some 600 matches during The Championship fortnight. The Club then hosts the data on its internal website so it can be displayed in summary and breakdown form for analysis by the players and their coaches, broadcasters and other interested parties working at the event.

A subset of the tournament data is also used to populate the public website, which has been re-launched this year, and the iPhone app, which was the first of its kind to be introduced in 2009. It also introduced augmented reality features for smartphone users last year. “We use a cloud-based web hosting infrastructure to support Wimbledon.com,” said Flack. “That way, we can provision in and out hardware when we need it.”

Servers get a cool drink

Even here, IBM is showcasing its latest virtualisation technologies and has introduced energy efficiency features to its dynamic data centre. While players chug sports drinks on court, Wimbledon’s IT  servers also get a cool drink when they need it.

Before, the whole host data centre for Wimbledon.com was cooled to the same temperature. Now, with a targeted liquid cooling system, “we only cool the bits that need cooling when we need them,” Flack said.

Graphic heat maps show current data centres temperatures, which can be controlled by the IBM engineers remotely from the Wimbledon bunker. Operating at between 67-71 degrees centigrade, zone-cooled pipes go directly into the racks to keep servers cooler than the ambient air around them. And the data centre also uses liquid cooling to maximise hardware and energy efficiency as well as systems availability.

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