February 2, 2007

Open source is the ticket for In Ticketing

Author: Tina Gasperson

Ticket broker In Ticketing is going head to head with Ticketmaster. It's able to offer lower fees for the same services because of open source software, says co-founder and CTO Marc Urbaitel.

Urbaitel was formerly the manager for the band Sound Tribe Sector Nine, and a local events producer in Atlanta. He learned how to program at Georgia Tech in the early '90s while working on a degree in electrical engineering. "Open source was just coming out," he says. "I first got involved with it when I started working at a small startup." Urbaitel was intrigued by PHP and started studying the programming language on his own at night, becoming a self-styled code poet. "When you go to college, sometimes you start something and then you realize you're into something else."

In 2001, Urbaitel and his friend Stephen Weisz combined their talents and a $195 investment to create In Ticketing. "We offer services for box offices and promoters worldwide to sell their tickets through our system," Urbaitel says. "We built it on open source. We use FreeBSD, Apache, and PHP." The ticketing application allows promoters and venues to access the system to change prices and edit event information. In Ticketing users can also set up private events, offer customer discount codes, and manage guest lists. Customers can buy and print tickets at home, saving about 40% over Ticketmaster's standard service charge.

Urbaitel says he uses FreeBSD "mainly for security. We've always been a FreeBSD shop -- we just like it a little bit better." Originally, Urbaitel performed his own tech support, but now that In Ticketing has grown into an organization with multimillion-dollar annual revenue, he's turned the server management over to a national hosting company that supports FreeBSD.

Urbaitel likes the quick development cycle that open source development provides. "You can build something and you can react very quickly to what your clients need," he says. But that speed has to be balanced with performance. "Early on, we would respond quickly and produce new features, but the challenge was finding the right tools to develop the scalability. How to make a feature scale over a large number of people hitting it. It's experience, and tools, and profiling. You have to learn how to use profilers so you can test your new updates, test the new features. It's just education, going to seminars, speaking with experts in the field and community."

He says that open source has leveled the playing field. "It has enabled In Ticketing to operate with enterprise-level software like Ticketmaster, and we've been able to do this without a large investment. We didn't have to go look for big venture capital money -- we were able to do it ourselves, power it ourselves, build this application without huge overhead cost."

As In Ticketing grew, Urbaitel turned to a proprietary product to help streamline and debug his code. "We started working with Zend Studio a couple of years ago. It's helped me write faster code, and it has some debugging and profiling tools."

When it comes to deciding whether to use open source as the foundation for their companies, Urbaitel encourages other entrepreneurs to dive in. "Do it yourself," he says. "All the tools are out there. There's a lot of code. Don't reinvent the wheel. Work with the community -- everyone's willing to help, and we all can empower ourselves to build really great companies with this new model -- open source. It's all at your fingertips."


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