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The Australian Open: Backstage IT photos

The Australian Open turns Melbourne Park into a small city each year, with the underlying information technology having to be scaled up to meet the demands of organising hundreds of matches.
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By Suzanne Tindal on
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It's an event which brings players from around the world, hoping to be the next one to win the tennis title down under. Those who don't come in person can get updates on the site, which is "one of the biggest websites in Australia for the two weeks", according to Tennis Australia web producer Nick Davies.

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IBM is a sponsor of the tournament, but also supplies much of the information technology gear such as the systems that make sure broadcasters get exact scores as soon as the points are made on the court.

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As befits a sponsor, IBM had some space within the grounds all to itself, where it could look at the fruits of its labours. Here, we were shown the capabilities of the applications it was running, including a real time cross section of the locations from which the organisation was being assaulted by malware.

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Inside, Tennis Australia CIO Chris Yates, who has headed up the IT section of Australia's racquet-slinging sport for the last three years, describes how he revamped the technology for the Open. Instead of having a resource-intensive build every year, a new server room full of IBM's XIV kit gave Yates enough scalability to just turn a dial when the Open comes around.

Yates spoke on the challenges of handling Tennis Australia's IT infrastructure. For more information, see this follow up piece.

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On the court, staff with PDAs record points. Their information flows through this room which takes part in the scoring and scheduling. This room has been put into the incredibly airy and atmospheric confines underneath a grandstand.

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Before Yates came along, scheduling assigned courts to players would be carried out using a system of post-it notes. Needless to say, this is no longer the case.

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The room would not have been complete without its own server wrapped in a travel-ready crate.

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Yet it was no match for the upgraded server room, complete with hot and cold aisles and sticky paper as you walk in to stop the dust from your shoes getting into the equipment. According to Tennis Australia infrastructure manager Andrew Player, the room has 180 servers, each with 96GB RAM, providing 44TB storage. It cost $0.5 million, according to Player.

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As he led us into the server room, he joked "I'll just take all the Dell servers out". No Dell kit here.

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