With Islandia, N.Y.-based software giant Computer Associates Inc. as an annual visitor, the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans makes sure it keeps up on its connectivity. We're pleased to report that the lesson they learned back when the center was featured in the first issue of TM in mid-1998--that big-pipe communications capacity was the ultimate feature--was learned well.

Today, the Morial operates its own 100 Mbps service. Compare that to the 1.5 megabit capacity of a T1 line and you'll understand why the Morial's Web site brags that it is "... not simply 100 Mbps Ethernet running back to a T1 bottleneck--it is 100 Mbps to a 100 Mbps connection to the Internet."

Like other convention centers featured in this issue, the Morial has discovered the virtues of the VLAN, or virtual local area network. This technology uses programmable switches, making it possible to create the equivalent of many small, secure LANs, over which data, voice, and video signals can be sent. Exhibitor computers on the facility's 100BaseT fast Ethernet network gain access to each other via independent VLAN connections from a Cisco Catalyst 5509 fiber-optic switch. Exhibitors can use a shared-access Ethernet network to connect to the Internet, or they can step up to dedicated Internet access, which guarantees that the only network traffic on your connection will be your own.

The Morial IT team also has combined systems management from CA's Unicenter TNG enterprise management software with networking technology from Cisco Systems, so the entire network can be managed from a single central console. This will greatly reduce set-up and takedown times, because it eliminates the need to physically install network drops. The Morial's staff can configure installed cable to meet the needs of exhibitors and event managers.

With 1.1 million square feet of contiguous exhibit space, a 4,000-seat auditorium, and 140 meeting rooms, the Morial is still pretty nimble for a facility of its size.