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Cloud Computing Helps with Handling Unexpected Visitors

January 2, 2013 No Comments

One of the biggest challenges organizations face in terms of logistics and IT is planning for the unknown. Countless Websites have felt the full brunt of what happens when, for whatever reason, traffic begins to bounce off the charts and the system is ill-prepared to absorb the workload.

Fortunately, IT managers and their organizations are beginning to anticipate what to do when hits go from 500,000 a day to 50 million a day. First and foremost in preparing for unexpected visitors is a solid cloud platform built to handle whatever the world can throw at it, be it massive hurricanes for the Weather Channel or monster backhands in the case of the All England Lawn Tennis Club during Wimbledon.

When the world’s top tennis players aren’t competing for an esteemed Wimbledon title over the course of two weeks in the summer, the Website gets fewer than 500,000 page views on average per day.

During last year’s championships, daily page views peaked at 50 million.

“Wimbledon is an extreme example of spikiness of demand. There are very long periods of dormancy then a frantic period when the tournament is live,” said IBM’s Doug Clark, according to the BBC.

Spikiness is a common problem in the IT world.

Retailers suffer from spikiness. Websites are expected to be swamped in the run-up to Christmas. Internet travel firms sustain a similar problem, experiencing a surge in demand in January as people plan summer vacations.

So how do retailers and organizations expecting a jump in traffic handle the situation? Cloud providers are willing to supply the answer they’re looking for.

Instead of buying huge amounts of computing power and storage that may be unused for most of the year, companies can get what they need in a more flexible way.

So for Wimbledon, IBM has allotted enough computing resources to cope with the surge during the tournament. And those machines are not in cramped underground facilities at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. They’re located in the United States in Raleigh, N.C., so it is convenient for the Wimbledon tournament, but it also works well for IBM.

It does not have those machines sitting around in Raleigh waiting for the next Wimbledon to come around. Instead, once Wimbledon is over, that computing power can be used for other major tennis tournaments, the U.S. Open golf tournament and one of the big events of the U.S. theater industry, the Tony Awards.

Across the pond from Wimbledon, The Weather Channel recently experienced its highest traffic ever over the course of Hurricane Sandy. The media company typically supports about 90 million Web and mobile users a month. During Sandy, that figure jumped to 450 million, nearly double its previous high for Web traffic. Fortunately, The Weather Channel was prepared for the traffic surge, according to an article on

The company’s IT team had recently architected its real-time radar mapping. On normal days, the mapping system runs on about 20 instances, but during Sandy it scaled up to run on 175 nodes.

It’s a classic use-case for the cloud: Variable and unpredictable peak demand for Web services is outsourced to a public cloud provider. It would have required a major investment to spin up a system across the company’s on-premise and colocation environments to support the traffic load it experienced when Sandy ripped up the Eastern Seaboard, and then it would have likely gone mostly unused during other times. The alternative would have been not to have the compute horsepower to serve all the visitors to The Weather Channel’s platforms.

Patrick Burke

Patrick Burke is a writer and editor based in the greater New York area and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting.

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