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Inside InteropNet's Hot Stage

The hot stage lets the InteropNet team assemble and configure the hardware and software that powers Interop ahead of the conference itself. Team members test designs and work out bugs. Here's an inside look.

The last few months have been a busy time for the InteropNet team. In addition to their regular day jobs, team members have tuned the design of the InteropNet through conference calls and online collaboration. All that design work then gets put to the test at an event we call hot stage.

The hot stage is where we assemble all the components of the InteropNet, configure the equipment to suit our design constraints and test the network. InteropNet includes equipment and systems from more than 20 vendors, all of which has to be shipped to the hot stage warehouse facility in Brisbane, CA.

Interop

Part of the intent behind hot stage is to understand the physical layout of the infrastructure to ensure it can operate within constraints of the on-site event. We also create test plans to set a performance baseline to ensure a seamless user experience.

The end goal of hot stage is to create a fully functional network that that can be broken down and transported for installation on site in Las Vegas this May.

Interop

Education plays an important role in the process. We hold numerous sessions over the course of the hot stage process to introduce the vendor technologies and concepts to the team.

These sessions are always well attended and go a long way in creating an understanding of what the systems benefits and limitations are, which then leads to problem-solving exercises to resolve design and equipment constraints.

We often say the only constant at hot stage is change. This year alone the core network design and equipment placement was modified three times in the first two days.

Interop

From a technical perspective we are introducing a couple of new concepts in the 2013 InteropNet, each of which we tested at hot stage.

First, in a move away from the traditional network model, we adopted a fabric-based infrastructure from Avaya based on the 802.1aq Shortest-Path Bridging standard. This should allow us to provide a resilient network infrastructure with the ability to quickly deploy features and services as required.

Second, we're expanding our efforts to manage and monitor the user experience at the Interop conference (users include both attendees and exhibitors). This effort was spurred by a late night conversation. The idea is to create a baseline for user experience, establish standards, and monitor against our baseline.

We want to measure and report in a convenient way:

• Time to associate with WiFi

• Time to authenticate with WiFi

• Average user DHCP response time

• Average user DNS response time

• When external access changes (route changes) occur

• Performance to access general Web pages on the internet

• VoIP quality

• Web page download speed

We have the following systems to draw from:

• Fluke • Splunk • cPacket • Endace • WildPackets • Path Solutions • Breaking Point • Spirent • ScienceLogic • NetScout

The requirements for this project are that it be simple for the NOC to access results, that we get reporting from various areas of the user network, and that the results are representative of the user experience. We have some great monitoring tools to use, and the ultimate goal is to develop an ecosystem that can measure conditions that directly contribute to the user experience.

The aim of the InteropNet is to foster ideas and development. If you have any ideas or suggestions we would love to hear from you. You can also see the InteropNet in action at the Las Vegas conference in May. Tours are available on Wednesday, May 8th and Thursday, May 9th. You can register for the conference itself here.

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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