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Weekend Forecast: ‘Beast quake’ in Seattle

Odds of a Seattle Seahawks win vs. the GreenBay Packers this Sunday? 20-61. Potential for earthshaking reactions from Seattle fans, aka the 12th man? 110%.The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) and Microsoft's partnership work to improve the PNSN site reliability to make the real-time fan experience even better.

Odds of a Seattle Seahawks win vs. the GreenBay Packers this Sunday? 20-61. Potential for earthshaking reactions from Seattle fans, aka the 12th man? 110%.

These chances look pretty good for the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) researchers, who have installed seismometers to measure the seismic activity that results from the celebratory ruckus after big plays at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.

Called “Beast Quakes,” after a gravity-defying touchdown run by Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch during a 2011 playoff game, PNSN helps fans quantify the fun. During this Sunday’s playoff game, PNSN will provide real-time seismic data through its streaming “QuickShake” data page and via social media.

Streaming of seismic data is based on open source software, with the internet-facing components hosted on Microsoft Azure. Since partnering with Microsoft last playoff season to improve the site’s reliability (it’s not easy to keep up with 12th man demand for more Seahawks data!), the teams got together this past weekend to make the real-time fan experience even better.

“Although we did this same experiment last season, this time around the story was picked up by the national media,” said Jon Connolly, PNSN Software Engineer. “After stories appeared in Wired, the New York Times and NBC Nightly News, amongst countless other outlets, I quickly realized that I needed to get this product in the cloud immediately. Nik Garkusha and his team quickly mobilized and had QuickShake stabilized on Microsoft Azure in hours.”

The technical team (Nik GarkushaJose Miguel Parrella and Cory Fowler) upgraded the site to ensure that the web sockets could broadcast hundreds of samples per second gathered from CenturyLink Field seismometers. Every one of the thousands of fans who connected to PNSN website opened one such web socket and received the “early warning” data from the stadium.

“While the science of this is very rigorous, the architecture for data streaming is surprisingly simple and the deployment was very easy” said Nik Garkusha, a Senior Product Manager on the Microsoft Azure team.

Using a combination of Azure Web Sites and Virtual Machines running Ubuntu Linux, the team partnered with the PNSN gurus to develop and deploy a set of Node.js applications to gather data from the game, and use WebSockets technology to stream the data near real-time.

To achieve massive internet-scale they relied on the autoscale capabilities of Azure Web Sites, and load-balancing of Virtual Machines with Azure Traffic Manager to fire up more independent instances as needed, too.

“Microsoft Azure has allowed us to introduce a new way of visualizing real-time, fan generated shaking that has such low latency it beats the 10-second TV delay by as much as eight seconds,” said Connolly. “This means that a viewer watching both QuickShake and the game will most likely know if a play was successful or not six to eight seconds before it unfolds on TV.”

And the Seahawks delivered seismic results last weekend, courtesy of big plays like Kam Chancellor’s 90-yard interception return for a touchdown and superman-like field goal blocks.


Following Nik’s example from last year’s playoffs, we recommend a “two-screen experience” for this coming Sunday: one with the game and one with the PNSN fan site. Go Hawks!