Byte off enough so your clients always have something to chew might be the theme of Seattle's Washington State Convention & Trade Center, where physical and technological expansion grow together.
"The norm for [Ethernet] network configuration within a convention facility is 10 megabit, and a few have 100 megabits, but we have one gigabit," says Neal Oshiro, the center's information system manager. "This increased bandwidth provides significant speed and reliability." And, as discussed below, security.
How many other centers have a similar capacity? "I know of 250 comparable convention centers, but don't know of any that has a gigabit," says David Irons, president of the Seattle-based Convention Communications Provisioners Inc., which is in charge of telecommunications for the center.
Exhibition and data space will expand hand in hand. Ground was broken in May for an expansion that will double the center's heavy load exhibition space to 207,000 square feet and add six new meeting rooms, permitting the servicing of two 100,000-square-foot trade shows. The new facility is expected to open in summer 2001.
The new and existing centers will be joined via a sky bridge covered with a dramatic arched glass canopy, offering views of downtown Seattle, the Pike Place Market, and Elliott Bay.
Speed and Security Physical amenities alone do not suffice for a center that has positioned itself to handle clients such as its neighbor in Redmond, Microsoft, for which it dedicates T1 service. At one recent symposium, Microsoft had 850 computers on one local area network (LAN). Thanks to the center's gigabit Ethernet capabilities, five virtual LANs could work independently off of the same line.
"Because we use the fastest switches available today, though we use one gigabit, we actually have a backplane of 8.5 gigabits," says Irons.
The virtual LANs are a boon to network security. "Virtual LANs allow clients to segment data into different compartments, so people in one department can't see what's going on in another," says Irons. The system can also automatically change or shape the bandwidth within a matter of seconds to provide needed capacity.
The increased segmentation possibilities, which came about through the increased use of switches and routers over the past year, in lieu of hubs, means you can segment the different portion of the LANs much more tightly. "When you have a lot of hub signals going out from all of the ports simultaneously, you don't know where this information is coming from or going to," Oshiro says. "If there's too much for the system to handle, it just shuts down. With switches and routers, the ports are individually configurable, and you can actually get down to what parts of the buildings the signals are going to and coming from."
A WAN for Hotel Connections This system also is able to translate a LAN into a wide area network (WAN). "We're finding more and more clients want to conduct some business from their hotels for their overflow but don't want a break in terms of their connectivity for their data systems," Irons says. "So someone in his hotel can hook into the system through the WAN."
Also, says Oshiro, some exhibitors like to pull their presentations right across the Internet from their home sites. "Here's where the reliability that comes from a gigabit network really counts," he says. "You don't want a presentation showing your state-of-the-art products bogging down right in the middle."