IBM puts grids to work at US Open

IBM will put a collection of its On Demand-related products and technologies to this test this week at the US Open tennis championships, implementing a grid-based infrastructure capable of running multiple workloads including two not associated with the tournament.

At the heart of the grid-based operation is the company's Tivoli Dynamic Orchestrator, which will be provisioning resources of different applications located on different servers. Using predictive modeling the system can automatically allocate and direct server capacity to where it is most needed, thereby improving utilization rates and cost effectiveness, according to company officials.

During downtimes the system will also be running workloads involving protein folding tasks for medical research as well as financial applications including credit scoring applications.

"We think this particular combination of workloads is an interesting test in that grid-based workloads and transaction-oriented workloads have very different behavioral patterns. By nature, grid workloads just suck up whatever capacity you give it. The more you give it the faster it runs. Whereas transactional workloads are much more unpredictable with wild swings in either direction," said Jeff Smith, vice president in charge of On Demand Automation.

Smith believes this combination of the orchestration and provisioning products with some other management capabilities thrown in is a good test for the products collective ability to set "real world" service levels, and to cost effectively mange those service levels in a mixed workload environment.

Along with the Tivoli Dynamic Orchestrator, IBM will also deploy its recently announced eServer i5. Fueled by the company's Power5 processor, the server will be responsible for the publishing, staging, and scoring for the tournament. The grid-based system will make use of IBM's Virtualization Engine technology and will have a patchwork of servers running multiple operating systems including Linux, Windows, and IBM's i5/OS.

Also being used for the first time at the two-week tournament will deploy Linux-based blade servers that will be directly responsible for the scoring system.

"We think it can demonstrate how an integrated set of capabilities can be leveraged, not only by a corporate IT group but also by a business whose job it is to do service providing," Smith said.

The infrastructure will be responsible for not just the scoring but running the Web site, which last year had 15.2 million hits by 2.4 million people, as well as providing a varied and continuous stream of information for the attendees and participants.

"There is a huge amount of demand, but that demand has some very wide swings. Over the course of the tournament anywhere from a little less than 10 percent up to 80 to 85 percent of the infrastructure will be dedicated to the US Open. It is a huge amount of reconfiguration and reallocation that occurs when you shift this capacity," Smith said.

Before IBM had provisioning software and other grid-related technologies, they had to pre-configure and pre-provision dozens of Web servers with all the necessary operating systems and applications they would need for the tournament. According to Smith it was a much more expensive and inefficient process.

"After we set everything up they just (the servers) sat there and watched for about 95 percent of time and did nothing, waiting for the big surges to come. It was very wasteful of the overall computing capacity and cost a ton on money not only in equipment but people to set it all up and maintain it," he said.

The US Open begins on August 30.

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