InteropNet's Live Wire Act
February 19, 2013
InteropNet is the technological backbone of the Interop conferences in Las Vegas and New York. InteropNet provides the IT infrastructure and network connectivity to attendees and exhibitors, and also serves as a real-world lab to test interoperability among different vendor products. It highlights emerging network and data center technologies, and serves as a live exhibit that attendees can explore while at the show.
The InteropNet team has a daunting task: to assemble a working network operations center on-site in four days. This NOC will manage a network that provides Internet access and other IT services for 10,000 attendees and over 300 exhibitors in Las Vegas. It must cover 360,000 square feet of exhibition space and 330,000 square feet of conference space for the week-long event. Volunteers make up the majority of staff that build and run the NOC.
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In addition, InteropNet is designed to provide a practical demonstration of the concepts and technologies that will be discussed and presented at Interop. At Interop 2013 in Las Vegas, these concepts include software-defined networking, BYOD and security.
While the actual construction of InteropNet takes four days, the process starts much earlier. The InteropNet team organizes the design and implementation of the NOC into eight steps that are implemented over a period of six to seven months. The steps are:
1. Identification of Concepts and Constraints
2. RFP Process
3. Vendor Selection
4. Engineering Planning
5. Design Tuning
6. Pre-Staging and Practical Tuning
7. Installation and Delivery
The infrastructure of InteropNet consists of switches, routers, servers, wireless APs and controllers, cabling, monitoring tools, traffic analysis tools and other equipment, all of which is donated by vendors. The complete list of vendors donating equipment and software is posted at the end of this blog.
Vendors are chosen based on an RFP created by the InteropNet staff. The RFP gives prospective vendors the ability present ideas based on their current and future equipment inventory, and to demonstrate how they can illustrate concepts such as software-defined networking. The RFP process also gives new vendors the opportunity to participate.
The RFP we used for Interop 2013 Las Vegas was published prior to the 2012 conference in New York. This allowed us to discuss options with prospective vendors at the New York event and in some cases get a demonstration of the technology. It also let us target new vendors that were showcasing interesting products at the event.
The selection process accounts for a number of factors, including commitment to Interop and the ability to provide both technology and support. We also look at why the company is offering to participate--that is, what it hopes to get out of the experience. For some vendors it's an opportunity to demonstrate new features and capabilities. For others it's a first-hand opportunity to see how well its products perform in a multivendor environment. The promotional element doesn't hurt, either.
Vendors that participate must provide equipment, systems and support for eight months, and in some cases even longer. Vendors must also provide value for all Interop participants. For exhibitors, this means delivering a reliable service. For attendees it means being able to discuss concepts and technologies with the engineers who design and build the NOC. The volunteer team that helps assembly and deploy the NOC also gets value from the experience, including opportunities to get hands-on experience with the technology in a live setting.
After selections have been made, the team moves into the engineering phases. This includes the engineering planning meeting where the initial design is worked out, the tuning of the design, and hot staging of all the equipment offsite prior to the event. The final phase is the installation and operation at the event.
You can see InteropNet for yourself at Interop Las Vegas; tours of the NOC are available Wednesday, May 8, and Thursday, May 9, on the expo floor at 11:00, 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. InteropNet team leads and volunteers host the tours. Sponsors do participate as required to answer questions from attendees.
Glenn Evans, founder and CEO of Acrux Consulting, is the lead network engineer for the InteropNet project. He brings more than 25 years of systems and networking experience in both management and technical operations, including 15 years in the event space.
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