Big Blue's site: Bigger, faster, better

The website (http://www.olympics.com), developed and maintained by IBM under its Olympic sponsorship contract, will be IBM's biggest web event to date, with "significant" growth above other IBM web events, such as the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998 and the Australian Tennis Open, said Laurie Courage, IBM's director of internet strategies and web events.

Courage said the growth is a combination of the increase in internet use as well as SOCOG's attractive online content and program.

As a result of expected increases in hits, Courage said that significant changes to IBM's technology and internet architecture have occurred over the last 18 months to support the website since Nagano.

The most significant change to the web architecture has been the restructure of the back-end systems and web server infrastructure, she said.

IBM has restructured its internet architecture to comprise four origin server farms, housing IBM RS/6000 SP high-volume servers. Three farms are located in the US and one is in Sydney, creating a distributed web server architecture providing redundancy and scalability, Courage said.

According to Courage, official website servers were located throughout the world for the Nagano Winter Olympics.

At the Sydney Games, content will be generated by the high-power systems which will then distribute the data to the lower-cost server infrastructure. At Nagano, the content was generated by the low-cost systems which pushed the data out to the more expensive machines.

"The change (to server farms) means we have the ability to deliver more traffic effectively," Courage said.

Content management and data mining, using IBM's SurfAid Analytics and DB2 UDB database, have also been important in the development of the site.

Additionally, enhanced content management, along with a new web interface for IBM's crucial results systems, has created a new application for the Sydney site, Courage said.

Visitors will have the opportunity to view events in real time via a downloadable desktop scoreboard, in addition to the browser-based applications used at Nagano. The scoreboards, which will only be developed for 11 of the events, will offer visitors in-depth, real-time information and results from the event.

Courage said another important aspect of IBM's internet involvement in the Sydney Games has been the opportunity to showcase its e-business solutions.

Technology developments included on the website will be adapted for commercial use by the end of the year, she said, adding that a number of organisations are already testing software while the Olympic scoreboards have been adjusted for use by financial organisations.

"Much of the content management will find its way back into IBM products, tools are becoming available," she said. "With the things we're doing here . . . a lot of customers have the same issues."

The official Olympics website will be live until December 31, when IBM will hand the domain name and some associated technology and content over to the International Olympic Committee.

IBM is the official technology provider and a sponsor for the Sydney 2000 Games.

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