A developer goes to the Masters: Day 1 inside the digital ops center

My first post from the Masters was all about the physical world. The weather. The course. The impossible beauty of this place. But after a day of taking in the sights and sounds of Augusta National, my focus quickly shifted to the digital world of the Masters. And the work of supporting the Masters app and Masters.com.

Yesterday was the first round of the 2021 Masters, and the IBM team was locked in. Months of planning, designing, and developing gave way to measuring and managing the digital experience of the tournament. Seeing the intensity and orchestration of it all gives me a new appreciation for all of the work that happens behind the scenes.

Our daily scrums begin about an hour before tee time and are led by Karl Schaffer, Project Manager for IBM iX Real Time events. During tournaments, he is responsible for communicating information to the necessary parties — various teams including the IBM iX team, IBM Marketing, the Masters editorial team, and IBM leadership. During the scrum, Karl does a fantastic job leading the recap of events from the previous day, the schedule for the upcoming day, and asks if anyone has any blockers. We have about 10 team members here in Augusta. But, there are also another 30 team members operating remotely. And, everyone has a critical role to play.

For example, Ron Fain is our hybrid cloud architect, and his job is to monitor every aspect of our infrastructure, which is spread across a series of public and private clouds. So, Ron is watching our containers and how the various workloads are being distributed across that hybrid cloud environment.

Stephen Hammer, an IBM Distinguished Engineer and our Sports CTO, is working on the live video streams to ensure proper encoding for digital consumption. He also manages our AI-generated highlights (Round in under three minutes and Fantasy Recaps).

Sheldon Busby ensures that whenever our scoring or livestreams go live, the content is rendering properly on every OS platform. He has more than 20 devices open right now, checking the streams across each and every permutation, alerting the team so that we can work on fixing items before they become a problem.

In some ways, it’s like being part of a live studio broadcast production. When each channel goes live, our IBMiX consultant and support specialist Jenna Miller counts down to live video on air. “Ten seconds to Amen Corner Livestream…5…4…3…2…1.” Jenna works with Stephen on the Fantasy Recap generation and approval process as well.

This is a true command center. The multiscreen bays display everything from video to raw code to data feeds. It’s calm and quiet, but intense. And the team is laser-focused. The first day of the tournament was long and exhausting. But it’s cool to think that while our team is hard at work here in Augusta, millions of people around the world are enjoying features like My Group or Masters Fantasy on the app or website.

Okay, time to get back to work!