Master of Network Interoperability

If anyone knows about network interoperability, it's Glenn Evans, the lead network engineer for the InteropNet, the infrastructure that supports the Interop conference and more than 300 exhibitors.

Susan Fogarty

February 25, 2014

3 Min Read
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Today, with the growing popularity of Open[fill in the blank] and BYOX, interoperability has become more crucial than ever. And if anyone knows about network interoperability, it's Glenn Evans. Evans is founder and president of Acrux Consulting and lead network engineer for InteropNet, the infrastructure that supports the teaching, research, and production network of the Interop conference. He'll be speaking with us live this Thursday on E2 Radio.

Evans has been involved with the InteropNet since 1996, he said in an interview. The network was a natural extension of Interop, which began as a "plugfest" to test network equipment interoperability. The event grew, and the InteropNetbecame one of the world's largest temporary networks and interoperability test beds. Evans is responsible for vetting and organizing the broad scope of technology, and for ensuring all the volunteers work as a single, effective team to make everything work together.

That's quite a challenge, considering that the bulk of the network is built in only four days, and that the demands of the conference fluctuate wildly during the event. Despite the obstacles, Evans and his team are focused on improving the technology each year to give attendees the best user experience possible.

The network supports conference attendees and also serves as the backbone for more than 300 exhibitors to show off their wares. This creates a demanding and constantly changing environment, given that the exhibitors are IT equipment manufacturers. Avaya hardware supporting Shortest Path Bridging and dual-stack IPv4 and IPv6 provides the foundation of the InteropNet.

This is the same network design model that connected the Olympic games in Sochi, Russia, Evans noted. "We have a need to provide flexibility," he said, explaining that easy interoperability was a major reason for choosing the Avaya equipment. "With the Avaya technology, we can create a platform that allows us to add services on the fly very quickly."

Ensuring wireless coverage can also be tricky, especially at a conference for IT professionals, where expectations are high. The temporary nature of the network introduces challenges when it comes to planning for coverage, density, and throughput, said Evans. "In a permanent environment, those take a bit of time to get right, but we've got to get them right the first go," he explained.

InteropNet's wireless network will use gear from Ruckus Wireless. The team is also implementing wireless performance monitoring tools from 7Signal that send probes into the wireless environment to understand how the network is behaving for users.

"The more information we have about what the wireless environment is doing within the facility, the better we can tweak it to make sure that the customer can get the level of performance they expect," said Evans.

In fact, the biggest challenge of the InteropNet, compared to an enterprise environment, Evans said, is "how to monitor and troubleshoot the network given the relatively short build and install times and the fairly high-profile operating time."

Interop attendees will be able to get a taste of that in a new live troubleshooting techniquessession that features hands-on demonstration using the InteropNet.

In the meantime, stop in at the E2 Radio Show with Glenn Evans, Thursday, February 27, at 2:00 p.m. EST. Learn how to apply lessons from the InteropNet to your enterprise network, and have the opportunity to ask your own questions about large-scale interoperability.

About the Author(s)

Susan Fogarty

Director of ContentSusan Fogarty is the Director of Content for Interop and UBM’s media properties InformationWeek and Network Computing. She’s an industry veteran who knows the IT audience very well, having served in content development for the event for four years and media for IT professionals for more than 20 years. Prior to joining UBM in 2012, she held an Editor position with Dell and worked at TechTarget, where she served as an Editorial Director, for 11 years.

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