For millions of people around the world, the online coverage of a small yellow ball is a vital lifeline. Behind the scenes, technology supplier Big Blue has endeavoured to do what every other enterprise running a network is aiming for - to run it cheaper and more efficiently.
With these objectives in mind for Tennis Australia's Australian Open 2002 Web site, IBM made the move to Linux from Unix using its eServer xSeries servers to power the Web site.
Cathy Hattersley, IBM project manager for the Australian Open, said while figures would not be known until after the tournament, the company expects serving expenses to the site to be down by a third, due to the change from a Unix to Linux environment.
"Operating the site has been less expensive - price performance has also been optimised."
Also being used for the first time this year is IBM-developed Gryphon technology. This rapid messaging system 'pushes' information to end users at almost real-time rates.
"There is about a three second delay in the [flow of] information showing what is happening on the court to its arrival at a user's laptop."
Hattersley said the technology would also be advantageous to financial institutions. "We envisage this technology being used on the trading room floor with stock price updates being pushed out and traders being updated in real time. We have had a lot of interest."
John Harvey, corporate affairs director, IBM Australia and New Zealand, said: "With this solution, Tennis Australia is moving to the next level of e-business and delivering information in real-time using a cost-effective, highly available information technology infrastructure."
The company said the technology, which has been incorporated in the WebSphere product offering, can also reduce the network bandwidth requirements of an IT system as unnecessary 'pull' requests are eliminated.
IBM manages the Web sites for all tennis grand slams, including Wimbledon, the US Open and Roland Garros.
Hattersley said an event team of technicians travelled the globe looking after these tournaments and other IBM-sponsored sporting events.
For the Australian Open, IBM's work with Tennis Australia usually starts up in August and September. By tournament time, about 50 local and imported technical staff are on site at Melbourne Park to manage the site, with support based in the US.