Five Reasons Why Building an Event Network is So Stressful

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Atmosphere is well underway in Vegas, and we deployed our own network at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase our most recent innovations. From the iPads and badge printers at the registration desk to the RFID readers around the convention center to indoor wayfinding using beacons, a successful conference depends on flawless connectivity.

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 4.47.58 PM.pngDesigning and building event networks is one of the toughest jobs in networking. Our solutions engineering team, including myself, want to share why.

1. Intense time pressure.

Designing an event network is very different than an office deployment because of the compressed timeline. Convention centers are often booked back-to-back, week-to-week, so these deployments can only be done on weekends. This is not our building – just to run a cable, we have to coordinate with the corporate IT staff at MGM, and they're only available at certain times. So, it's not only our own time we have to manage. 

We built the network in less than 48 hours – that's about 50 switches, 250 access points, core routing and servers. Once we got everything plugged in, AirMatch automatically optimized the network – and it keeps the network running smoothly. It has been a huge time-saver.

2. An extremely dense environment.

There are more than 3,000 people here, doing everything from checking their mail to running Wi-Fi speed tests for fun. The keynote and technical training sessions have big crowds with lots of mobile devices. AirWave gives us real-time maps of Wi-Fi coverage so we always know how the network is performing, who is on the network and where they are located. If there's a coverage hole, we instantly deploy another AP. To preemptively combat lack of coverage for 3000 people, we over-engineer certain areas, like the keynote area for 50 users per AP.

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 4.40.38 PM.png3. Lots of people moving around.4. 

Conventions and events have demanding roaming requirements. Masses of people stream from one location to another. We don't want to set off a tweetstorm about the tragedies of bad Wi-Fi.

There are also many times where many APs simply aren't used. When the ATM keynote speeches happen, almost nobody is in the other areas of the convention center. We use Aruba NetInsight to learn when and where low AP usage areas occur. These APs are dynamically converted from a high-density configuration to a high coverage configuration by turning off certain radios to save energy.

4. Very dynamic network demands.

When you design an office network, you install, optimize and you're done. Not so at an event. Last-minute changes may be needed for keynotes, technical training sessions or demos. We have to be ready if the hotel tells us we can't do something we had planned and take swift action. Fortunately, we can make quick changes to the configuration templates on the Aruba switches and deploy changes at the same time.

Using dynamic segmentation saves time that would have otherwise been spent on configuring switch ports to accommodate devices and communicating which ports someone should plug into. Now, they just plug into an open port. Dynamic segmentation provides a separate tunnel to transport traffic on a per-device basis from a switch to a controller. In our case, if it's a trusted AP, we can just bridge locally, since it builds its own tunnel back to the controller cluster.

With the help of ClearPass, authentication and policies are applied and enforced at the controller, just as they are for APs. This simplifies network operations and ensures devices are automatically assigned the right roles and network segments to support the keynotes, Innovation Zone and technical training sessions in a secure way.

5. People are watching.

Our customers and partners are here, and many are extreme Wi-Fi nerds. The ATM crowd has high standards for what a fast, reliable, and secure network is. We know you are judging us!

Visit Us at the NOC

Stop by the NOC and watch our team in action. See what's happening on our large dashboards and check out the newest products and capabilities in action.

Don't Miss This Session: Design and Implementation of the ATM Event Network

Wednesday, March 28 from 1:45 pm – 3:00 pm, Mandalay Bay A

Atmosphere 2018 Event Network is based on the latest Aruba hardware and software and part of our ongoing feature and solution testing. Learn about new software innovations in ArubaOS 8 and Aruba OS-CX and how they deliver a highly available and reliable network. New innovative switching features simplify network configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting. Aruba ClearPass provides secure access and control for all devices at the event. All this helps us integrate all the various solutions for the keynote showcases.


  • Jone Ostebo
  • Roopesh Pavithran
  • Ben Lowe
  • Kevin Marshall

Not at Atmosphere? You can still learn more about how we built the ATM network. Read the blog: "#ATM18: We've Got <48 Hours to Build the Show Network, and It's Going to Be Lit."