Tennis Australia on scaling up for two weeks a year

During the 2014 Australian Open, Tennis Australia leveraged its dynamic cloud infrastructure to track content and analytics to make future projections.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Every year for two weeks in January, Tennis Australia is transformed from a small to medium business with 250 staff to a global organisation employing 6,000 people.

Within those two weeks, the IT department, which is headed by chief information officer Samir Mahir, are running data analytics to focus on a number of outcomes.

Speaking at the ADMA Data Day conference, Mahir said it's important that every piece of data that comes through its system is analysed for the interest of its fans and stakeholders, such as coaches, players, staff, and volunteers, but also to enable for the business to make projections for future events.

"We track everything, even the numbers of bananas Nadal eats during the match, but for a reason; we don't do it for the sake of being curious," he said.

"We want to be able to project and plan for the following event. We want to check the inventory, are we good for that day, or week, we're a fortnight event so there's no room for error."

During the 2014 Australian Open in Melbourne, some statistics that were recorded included that there was 35 percent spike from 2013 to 55,000 in the amount of connected devices that were used during the two week event, and the amount of twitter followers increased by 80 percent. A total of 100TB worth of storage was dedicated to the company's video assets.

At the same time, the amount of bandwidth that was consumed increased by 584 percent from the previous year.

"Arenas are becoming more connected and are providing more content to the fans. What's important here is that we try to leverage this data to better run the tournament," Mahir said.

But the ability to track fans and content would never have been possible without a proper IT infrastructure, Mahir said. To carry on the company's 21 year long relationship with IBM, Tennis Australia invested in the tech giant's dynamic cloud provisioning service to avoid the risk of their infrastructure crashing because of the numbers and content that was going in and out.

"We invest in cloud computing with the help of IBM because it scales. We can't pay for, for example, cloud services year around because we don't have the need for it," he said.

"So what we use is a private cloud for the event that gives us the right infrastructure, the right capacity for us, but we can also use it on demand. It can provision things automatically."

Mahir believes an on-demand cloud infrastructure has enabled Tennis Australia produce certain outcomes, such as customising advertisements for its partners, such as IBM, Kia, and Jacobs Creek, on its ausopen.com.au website, which averaged 467 million pageviews during the event.

The platform also gives a way for the organisation to analyse the social media conversations fans were having about players and make adjustments on their content accordingly.

"Our infrastructure on the cloud will dynamically get ready for the peaks, but once the conversation slows down it will ramp down. You need an infrastructure that will allow you to do that," Mahir said.

But Mahir said it is ongoing work as the company's next focus is trying to figure out how to retain engagement with fans and patrons post-event, which he said has not been easy.

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