Linux is a PGA Tour winner


Author: Tina Gasperson

The PGA Tour, a membership group of professional golfers that is not affiliated with the Professional Golfer’s Association, is making extensive use of Linux in its interactive Web site and its real-time game tracking program, TOURcast. Because Linux has worked so well for them, they have had no qualms about migrating to Red Hat for their internal mail systems and intranet.Back in 1999 the PGA Tour partnered with CBS Sportsline, and at the same time greatly expanded its ability to provide fans with up-to-the-minute score information. TOURcast is an interactive online subscription service whose front end runs on Flash and whose back end runs on Linux. The server power is provided by IBM’s on-demand hosting center on zSeries mainframes. The on-demand service guarantees that when usage of TOURcast spikes, there will be servers available to meet the needs, while at the same time saving the company from having to buy CPU power that would remain idle during slow usage periods.

Vice president of information systems Steve Evans says that the decision to run Linux was based on cost, but the operating system had to be able to perform effectively in order to meet the demands of golf fans wanting to find out scores on Monday morning. Because PGA Tour was so satisfied with the performance and cost of Linux for its Web site and for TOURcast, the company was comfortable with the next step: moving to Linux for its internal systems.

Most of the organization’s staff was Microsoft-certified, but also familiar with Unix. When the company began thinking about using Linux internally, one of the biggest hurdles was to get IT employees trained in the open source operating system. Evans had the staff go through Red Hat certification.

Once the staff got comfortable with Linux, PGA Tour adopted a new policy: If it can be Linux, that’s what we prefer.

“The mail system we run is Lotus Domino, and the decision to move that to a Linux environment was a big one,” says Evans. “Everyone uses email and that’s got to work properly.” His confidence in Linux assured him that migration to Linux would increase stability and the ability to react to any issues that might crop up. Today, the company has about one-third of its internal systems migrated to Linux servers.

Evans says he is in discussions with management about the next layer of systems they’ll either upgrade with the latest Microsoft solution or move to Linux. “We run Microsoft NT but Microsoft stopped supporting NT. So do we migrate to Active Directory, or an LDAP type of solution?” Evans says the company will make a decision in the next two or three months and deployment will be final in a year.

Linux won’t be cropping up on the desktop at PGA Tour anytime soon, however, for a variety of reasons, says Evans. “First and foremost is trade-out. The way we trade computers out and build platforms, we’re kind of committed on the path that we’re on. Any strategizing we’ll do is probably a year out — and I don’t think there’s been a significant amount of progress made in the desktop environment.”


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