The future may not be now at Moscone Convention Center in the heart of San Francisco, but it's just around the corner. And that's a problem for Facilities Manager Dan Bora. Moscone broke ground last fall on a freestanding expansion, Moscone West, slated to open in 2003 with 300,000 square feet of new meeting and exhibit space. Moscone desperately needs the new space, but expansion is one of Bora's biggest headaches: How do you build 2003 technology into a building designed in 1999?
"We're not trying," Bora says. "It looks like cellular will rule by the time Moscone West opens, but even wireless won't do for everything. We're concentrating on putting in the pipes that will be able to carry Internet II and whatever else technology delivers over the next few years."
Trying to predict the direction of technology is a familiar problem. When the original hall, Moscone South, opened in 1981, Silicon Valley was still largely fruit orchards. When Moscone North opened just across Howard Street in 1992, local area networks were still more promise than reality in convention centers.
By the mid 1990s, Bora says, Inter-net and network connections were still such a novelty that exhibitors actually wanted lines run overhead with drops down to each computer to show off just how much complexity their systems could handle.
The need to display cable bundles was a lucky break for Bora, because as late as 1995, there wasn't a single foot of Category 5 cable permanently installed in Moscone Center. He had to browbeat the bean counters until 1996 just to get a fiber-optic backbone installed, but the budget mavens finally saw the light--and the profits--at the end of the tech tunnel.
MacWorld is a repeat customer. So are Oracle, SemiCon, Intel, MicroSoft, and every other major name in high tech. Location helps, but it took technology to turn Moscone into the unofficial home hall for Silicon Valley. With competitors from San Jose to Oakland waiting to pounce, Moscone Center can't afford to fall behind.
Exhibitors get fiber-optic cable running to every room, with Cat 5 connections in every floor pocket in the two main exhibition halls. Four tunnels provide access from below, which installation crews are putting to good use: Moscone's Cat 5 wiring is being upgraded to Cat 7 to provide 100 MB network access throughout. Upgraded switches are in place. Until the rewiring is completed, Bora said, setting up a 100 MB network could require some special cable runs, but nothing crews aren't already managing.
What they're handling would make most corporate MIS department blanch. Java 99 set up 170 networks in just three days last June. With more than 1,000 computers, it was easily the largest networking event of the year.
The center's fiber-optic line runs from Moscone to the San Francisco Marriott across the street, the standard overflow venue for presentations by the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Other fiber lines run to Yerba Buena Gardens atop Moscone North and to Zeum, a children's entertainment complex atop Moscone South. Private T1 lines run to the Palace, Argent, and Sheraton hotels. Links to the outside world are just as robust. The primary circuit is a dedicated DS3 line from Priority Networks. SemiCon pulled out all the stops in 1999 to link the Moscone complex, the Mar-riott, and two locations in San Jose, 50 miles to the south.
"We've had some challenges," Bora admits, "but nothing that didn't work. Being so close to Silicon Valley, we don't really have any choice but to keep up with the best, the fastest, and the newest."