Boston Marathon Has Tradition Of Technology

Despite being steeped in tradition, organizers of the Boston Marathon are quick to take advantage of today's technology to track participants.

May 3, 2004

3 Min Read
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Mention Beantown and people think of clam chowder, Harvard University, and the Boston Marathon -- which celebrated its 108th running just a couple of weeks ago in April. Despite being steeped in tradition, organizers of the marathon are quick to take advantage of today's technology to track participants.

"Of course, the heat this year was tough for the runners, but from a technology standpoint, the race went very well," said John Burgholzer, technology coordinator for the Boston Marathon. While we can't control the weather (yet) " and that day was in the 80s " other aspects of the race are totally controllable. "The Web site responded all day long," said Burgholzer, "and most requests were responded to within a couple of seconds."

At its peak, the Marathon Web site handled 60,000 connections simultaneously. In the six hours of the race, the site received eight million page views in slightly less than six hours, for a total of 600,000 users during the race. Each year, the number of hits to the site expands by 10 percent to 15 percent, according to Burgholzer.

More than 75 Hewlett-Packard employees volunteered to provide technical support to race organizers. In addition, 125 HP workers, from 12 states and five countries, ran the marathon. This year, the company also provided hardware for tracking the race itself, for the media facilities, information kiosks, medical tents, pickup areas and finishing lines.

"We've been involved in hardware and support of the Boston Marathon for 10 years," said Bill Carlisle, director of Microsoft Solutions Group of the Enterprise Storage and Servers Division, who works out of HP's Boston office. "Every year the race gets bigger and the amount of work that has to be done escalates."Before the race began, the laces of the shoes of each of the more than 20,000 runners were equipped with a computer chip that collected data and wirelessly sent it to notebook computers placed along the course. The chip then relayed the data to Northeast Datavault, a central secure data center. Ten HP ProLiant DL360G3 servers with 3.20 GHz 1M Xeon processors support the application/Web layer, while the database layer runs Microsoft SQL Server on two ProLiant DL580 G2 servers. An HP MSA1000 SAN backend handles storage. The Boston Marathon deployed an expansive HP ProCurve network with an HP ProCurve Switch 5300xl at the core and a series of HP ProCurve 2650, 2626and 2524 switches facilitating the extremely high volume of data transfer. The HP ProCurve Wireless Access Points 520wl and HP ProCurve Secure Access 700wl series provided appropriate access to resources that are needed forthe event, while still protecting the servers from unauthorized wireless access.

In addition, the 75 HP employee volunteers stationed throughout the race area with iPAC pocket PCs to access the HP Athlete Search System and access information about the location and progress of specific runners, based on name or bib number). Race viewers also could access the system online.

This year, HP improved the system with redundancy and reliability features to ensure constant uptime. "Our concern this year was making sure we serve up every request, so we did a lot with infrastructure, the data center and additional capacity," said Burgholzer. "We spent a lot of time in the HP testing lab and it really paid off." During the race, the servers never went above 30 percent CPU utilization, he added.

Other technology partners included Versital Communications for networking, Information Overload for consulting expertise and Verizon National Access for wireless technology.

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