London Underground website thetube.com is using data compression technology to deal with peaks in demand and improve web page download times, while cutting hardware and bandwidth costs.
The investment in the technology from Redline Networks comes after the Central Line pushed thetube.com's infrastructure to its limits as commuters bombarded the site for updates about the disrupted service.
The official London Underground website receives an average of between 200,000 to 500,000 page impressions a day. But Peter Wilson, thetube.com's project manager, said unexpected problems such as the Central Line accident or strikes could result in peaks of up to 60 times normal network traffic.
"It's very important to have a very robust infrastructure. When the Central Line went down, our customer service centre received 15,000 emails in the first week and was struggling to cope," Wilson said.
By managing all TCP/IP connections and HTTP data transmission, the web I/O Accelerators shield the web and cache servers from the constant flood of incoming user connections. Outbound data is also compressed.
"By reducing the number of IP addresses each server handles we can do more with the same hardware architecture because the servers aren't so stressed," said Phil Bird, technical manager at thetube.com.
"We've done testing and my guess is we've increased capacity by 25 per cent."
The company also believes it can slash £1m a year in leaflet printing costs by installing touch-screen kiosks at tube stations around the capital.
Thetube.com is currently trialling stainless steel touch-screen kiosks and is hoping to install the first one in either Gloucester Road or High Street Kensington underground station in the next couple of weeks.
The kiosks will run 'tubeguru', an interactive service offering underground service details together with local area information and entertainment and restaurant listings from Itchy Guide.
"We spend £2m a year printing maps and leaflets for stations. People will always want paper maps but we hope to save about £1m a year," said Wilson.
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