Microsoft to the rescue! How Windows Azure saved the Seahawks’ Fan-o-Meter

seahawksloudWhen the Seahawks faced down the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC Championship, interested fans and observers from around the world could check out just how much the 12th Man was shaking CenturyLink Field in real time, thanks to a set of seismic sensors placed there by researchers from the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

In addition to compiling final results, though, the PNSN also runs a “Fan-o-Meter,” a real-time feed of data coming from CenturyLink Field’s sensors straight to the web. But with Seahawks fever growing, they needed a little help to keep the Fan-o-Meter running.

When it came time for Seattle to square off against New Orleans in the playoffs on Jan. 12, loyal fans and curious observers loaded up the Fan-o-Meter. Then something went wrong. As traffic flooded the site, the single Linux server the researchers had set up for the purpose of relaying the data just wasn’t enough to handle all of the people who wanted to see what was going on. The PNSN had to shut down the Fan-O-Meter because it couldn’t keep up with the demand.

Nik Garkusha, a Senior Product Manager on Windows Azure, heard about an outage in an article that came out following the game, and reached out to PNSN researchers to see if they’d be interested in Microsoft’s help, according to a recent post to Microsoft’s Fire Hose blog. They were, and Garkusha worked with Cory Fowler and Jose Miguel Parrella at Microsoft to create a version of the Fan-o-Meter that would run on Windows Azure, and could withstand the force of people interested in the seismic output of the 12th Man.

On Jan. 19, the day of the NFC Championship, Garkusha sent off a Windows Azure-enabled version of the Fan-o-Meter to the PNSN, which stayed up throughout the game, even as fans generated enough seismic activity following Marshawn Lynch’s third-quarter touchdown to nearly match the “Beast Quake” from 2011.