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Serving up faster websites

Hamish Barwick | June 4, 2014
Managing the needs of high-profile tennis stars such as Lleyton Hewitt, along with members of the public who expect websites to load within seconds, led Tennis Australia to implement online application performance and monitoring in time for the Australian Open in January 2014.

"Right now, players make a [court practice] request, they come in and we book it for them. We want to try and automate certain services [on the Players site] so that it automatically ticks their request," Mahir said.

The Open 2014 was memorable for Mahir due to a heatwave which hit Melbourne and the wider Victoria state. Some matches were moved into the evening due to temperatures hitting 40 degrees or more during the day.

"We had weather information available to players and also the ability to communicate the weather policy- if a game was going to be suspended or not," he said. "The other thing we are thinking about is developing an Android and iPhone mobile app for our players with these same court booking and weather information for 2015."

Fan engagement

According to official numbers provided by Tennis Australia, 643,280 tennis fans attended the Australian Open in 2014.

The sporting body provides free Wi-Fi to the public in the Rod Laver arena and surrounding courts. Mahir said there were 55,000 devices (smartphones and tablets) detected on the public Wi-Fi network, a 35 per cent increase on 2013.

"There were 17 million unique visitors to our official site and approximately 467 million page views, a 31 per cent increase on 2013. People expect to connect their phone or tablet at the big sports arenas around the world. They need that connectivity and we need to improve our fan engagement as well."

That engagement was on a physical and online level in 2014. For example, the social media team organised a `Social Shack' pop up store for players to sign autographs and pose for photos with their fans. Tennis Australia also set up a studio where players did media interviews and fan Q&As.

Mahir said that the organisation wants the metrics and sentiments it receives from Facebook or Twitter during the Open to "serve a purpose."

"It's great to have Tweets but, as an organisation how do we leverage that data and increased traffic? Increased traffic can cause issues when you're hosting websites if you don't have enough servers."

To make sure its websites don't crash as people tweet and share photos, Tennis Australia uses IBM's cloud provisioning to host its sites and digital properties such as smartphone apps.

"Now we have cloud provisioning, this adds more servers for us based on traffic demand during the Open."

Tennis Australia also uses IBM's data analytics software- and key words- to determine whether a tweet about a player is positive or negative, It can then compile the data to rank players in a social leaderboard on the Australian Open website.

The leaderboard is updated every few minutes. After the event, IBM compiles an index providing feedback on the success of the event. Tennis Australia makes use of the feedback for marketing purposes, said Mahir.


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