The New York Giants may have won the Super Bowl, but the MVP — most valuable platform — in the team’s victory parade was the cloud.
The Big Apple’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) used Microsoft’s Azure to handle spikes in Web traffic during a two-hour sweepstakes last month for front-row seats at the event. According to DoITT officials, NYC.gov experienced a demand of 80 requests per second during the contest, but thanks to the “scale-up” ability of the cloud platform, visitors didn’t experience downtime or any significant lag.
Contestants could register through entries on NYC.gov, the city’s 311, via phone and through text messages. Overall, more than 50,000 people registered in the two-hour timeframe for a chance to sit at City Hall Plaza to watch Mayor Michael Bloomberg present the N.Y. Giants with the keys to the city.
From the technical end, running the sweepstakes went smoothly — a welcome change from the last time a major sports franchise from Gotham received accolades from the mayor for winning a championship.
Nick Sbordone, director of external affairs for DoITT, said when the New York Yankees won the World Series in 2009, NYC.gov was a little “sluggish” when a similar sweepstakes was held. At that point, DoITT wasn’t using the cloud for the event and while he didn’t remember the city’s website crashing, Sbordone recalled having to refresh the page a few times in order to get in.
But this time around, with even more people accessing the Web via smartphones and while on the go, using the cloud helped ensure that the user experience when registering for the sweepstakes was quicker and more seamless from a performance perspective.
“It was a perfect cloud play,” said Paul O’Brien, executive director of IT systems for DoITT. “It was a one-time event that required a lot of compute and memory horsepower, and our experience was very favorable.”
O’Brien said that it took a couple days of preparation and testing to get Azure ready to handle the influx of Web traffic. Using statistics from the Yankees’ 2009 parade and the Giants’ last victory lap in 2008, Azure was put through numerous load tests to make sure it could quickly shift gears to accommodate the demand.
He admitted, however, that the amount of traffic in prior sweepstakes was “disruptive” to the performance and availability of the website, so a close eye was kept on the cloud platform.
Using a management console interface provided by Microsoft, DoITT officials monitored the performance of Azure. While user demand exceeded that of previous years, the system acted much like Super Bowl XLVI most valuable player Eli Manning — cool under pressure — and handled the additional load without a problem.
“We were extremely pleased with the performance in comparison with our ability to host [the sweepstakes] off of NYC.gov proper,” O’Brien said, adding that the city is now looking for more ways to leverage cloud technology for its internal systems and applications.
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.