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PGA Tour Is On Par With Linux - page 2

Linux and Golf... Smooth As A 20 Foot Putt Right Into The Cup

  • June 9, 2003
  • By Rob Reilly

"Using Linux back then was quite a big step", explains Steve Evans, Vice President of Information Systems for the PGA. "When Tourcast was launched we needed a hosting environment. It was cost prohibitive to use the normal peak capacity sizing models, because high activity happens during the actual tournament. It's not a 24/7 type of web application."

"They [IBM] suggested 'E-Business on Demand' web hosting. The Tourcast application server lives on an IBM mainframe running Linux that varies 'server units' according to demand," Evans said.

The service is contracted for base-level capacity and then as demand rises (during peak application activity), server units are added in (and charged) to meet the load. As more customers use and are charged for the Tourcast service, it was a cost effective way to do it.

Evans and his team chose Linux for several reasons. The primary reason was for reliability. Evans said he wanted "reliable systems that go in and just run." Another reason was that Linux had good support from the IBM consulting and architecture groups. Additionally, the staff liked the IBM Websphere and Java (for building web pages) development environments that also run on Linux.

Evans had very few big challenges. The original planning and development for the web implementation took about 60 days. Tourcast was planned and developed between July and November of 2002, with the launch of the Tourcast site in January 2003. Pretty decent rollout times, by anyone's standards.

Getting the real-time scoring, position data, and event logging into the system was pretty interesting. A truckload of hardware known as the Shotlink Scoring System collects every stroke for every player using Palms, UHF radio links (connected via serial port), and spotters on the course. UHF works well with obstructions and is used for voice as well as data. The course spotters also use laser range-finders for positioning measurements. The UHF radios link to computers on a Windows 2000 network in the 18-wheel trailer that serves as the communications center.

Through the magic of networking, the data quickly find their way to the Linux Tourcast application servers and is presented to the audience member's web browser.

Since the Shotlink system is currently doing the job well, Evans has not seen a need to convert it from Windows 2000 to Linux yet. He speculated that it might be an option in the future.

He added that when the Palms, radios, Shotlink, and activity in and around the trailer (bristling with antennas) are at full tilt operation during a tournament, it's really quite an impressive sight to see.

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