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Case Study: PGA of America Doubles IT Capacity in Cloud Platform


Founded in 1916, the PGA of America is the world’s largest working sports organization. It is comprised of approximately 27,000 golf professionals who are dedicated to teaching and growing the game of golf. The organization has enhanced its leadership position by conducting premier spectator events — the PGA Championship, the Ryder Cup, the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid and the PGA Grand Slam of Golf — as well as significant philanthropic outreach initiatives and award-winning golf promotions.

The Challenge

When Hurricane Ike swept across the Gulf in 2008, The PGA of America maintained the availability and uptime of its critical applications thanks to the redundancy of Peak 10’s secure IT infrastructure. With much of its critical data located in storm-prone Florida, the organization’s IT team knew that future weather events still posed threats to its ability to keep the PGA of America’s IT operations up and running. It was determined that a geographically disparate, redundant facility was necessary to avoid future issues.

However, not any facility would do. The PGA’s four primary golfing events typically generate a significant spike in Internet usage as golf enthusiasts register for event tickets or check scores. That meant the organization also needed a scalable infrastructure that could accommodate fluctuations in Internet bandwidth.

With enterprise-class data centers located throughout the United States and a broad array of network services and managed services, Peak 10 could meet the PGA of America’s needs on both counts.

The PGA chose to co-locate its IT environment at a Peak 10 Louisville, Kentucky data center, ensuring cost-effective business continuity and real-time data replication. Peak 10 could also support The PGA by providing monitoring and management of the organization’s core applications.

In early 2012 The PGA initiated its transition into the Peak 10 cloud for the Senior PGA Championship in order to explore the security and stability of the new environment. Once satisfied, the organization moved its ticketing and scoring applications for The PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup. However, the real test of the overall partnership was still to come.

At every PGA tournament, in keeping with PGA’s quality standards, all golf scores are checked by a team of quality control volunteers who then feed the data into a master database. This data provides the real-time information viewers see on TV, their computers or smart phones. On Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, the PGA Championship in Kiawah, South Carolina began shaping up to be one of the most competitive ever. Fan favorites Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were playing extremely well. It was also one of the longest days of the tournament, with the final group not completing play until 8:15 p.m. Tens of thousands of visitors were checking the organization’s web site throughout the day for updated scores.

Unfortunately, the PGA’s website shared the same server as its scoring application. The increase in the website’s traffic caused a slowdown in the scoring application’s ability to feed real-time information to the TV networks.

While the changes were only evident on the back end, the IT staff anticipated that the next day could be even more intense.

With Saturday’s 7:30 a.m. tee off fast approaching, the PGA reached out to Peak 10 to help increase capacity for its event-critical systems.

The Solution

“We knew we couldn’t go into Saturday with any risk of performance issues. Peak 10 had talked to us before about their ability to invoke fast scalability with a stable and robust cloud environment. At nine o’clock Friday evening, we called to see if they could make good on their claim,” recalled Lou Manz, director of information technologies at The PGA of America. “The Peak 10 engineers told us ‘sure, just tell us what you want and when’. It didn’t faze them when we said we wanted twice as much capacity in a matter of hours.”

Peak 10 quickly mobilized teams of experts at its Charlotte and Louisville data centers, and a short time later was back on the line with The PGA. “They told us they could double our capacity, test it and make it live in the timeframe we needed. And that’s exactly what they did,” said Manz.

Working all night, the Peak 10 team reconfigured PGA’s architecture to route website traffic through additional cloud web servers, effectively giving the scorekeeping database twice as much capacity overnight without interruptions during the transition. Not only was the solution delivered on time, it was able to be tested before going live as well.

“The Peak 10 engineers told us ‘sure, just tell us what you want and when. It didn’t faze them when we said we wanted twice as much capacity in a matter of hours.”

The Results

Peak 10’s quick action helped avert a potential catastrophe that could have affected spectators, the media and The PGA’s reputation. Pleased with Peak 10’s exceptional performance, the PGA decided to procure additional services including cloud capacity and managed services to protect its systems from unexpected outages or malware attacks.

With all of its events securely hosted within Peak 10’s cloud platform, The PGA can now quickly ramp up its capacity, disseminate information to the media, engage more golf enthusiasts and better serve the organization’s members. Liberated from hardware infrastructure and in-house maintenance, the PGA’s IT team can also focus on scaling the applications that generate revenue for the organization and support its members.

“It is one thing to get things done, but Peak 10 achieves the best results with a positive attitude. Without fail, their response is always ‘what would you like, when would you like it, and yes, we can do that’,” said Manz.

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