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On Location: American Airlines Center's Managed Wireless


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Just as a professional athlete's skill is based on a solid grounding in the fundamentals of the sport, exceptional wireless networks are built on smartly engineered wired infrastructures. The AA Center is no exception. Its groundwork comprises a hub-and-spoke switched network with a Nortel Networks Passport 8600 Layer 3 switch at the core, supporting 1,200 wired ports and about 27 closet switches, with three firewalls and two Internet connections to provide fault tolerance for a critical InfoGenesis POS (point-of-sale) application hosted by a California-based application service provider.

The AA Center's other applications are hosted locally on Wintel servers connected over Fibre Channel HBAs (host bus adapters) to two Dell-EMC CX500 SAN units, one in the arena's data center, another in a spare data center across the street. There are enough multimode fiber runs in place to support both the SAN and the Gigabit Ethernet backbone. The switched Ethernet network is carved into multiple VLANs (virtual LANs)/IP subnets using standard 802.1Q tagging based on functional domains; major divisions separate corporate and "game-day" applications. Game-day functions are tightly controlled to ensure uptime. The IT staff set up wired VLANs for each team the center hosts, the building operating team, the POS system, video editing and the PCs located in spectator suites, plus one for telecommunications and one for TicketMaster. The media can access the suite VLAN, which is restricted to Internet use.

When we asked why the IT team is so bullish on wired VLANs, network engineer Louis Yuan told us that when the W32.Welchia worm hit the corporate network, one VLAN segment went down. But during that night's game, all applications worked flawlessly, thanks to the VLAN separation. NetIQ's MailMarshall and WebMarshall have since been installed to help prevent a reoccurrence of even one VLAN outage.

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