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World Skills Calgary 2009

The networking infrastructure for the event was a mammoth project that included 96 fiber drops and 75 wireless access points, as well as two network operating systems.


September 1, 2009  


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With 900 competitors from 51 countries around the world, WorldSkills Calgary 2009, which tool place in early September, was the city’s largest single event since the 1988 Olympic Games. The networking infrastructure at Stampede Park was also an Olympic-class effort, with 160 kilometres of fiber trenched throughout a 275,000 square metre. area to connect close to 50 sites in real time over a Cisco backbone.

This made it one of the largest portable networks built for a single event. It came as no surprise that putting all this together was a feat in cabling speed and efficiency. To start, the infrastructure had to be built from the ground up since the technicians were unable to use the facility’s existing infrastructure.

In addition, given that the site had separate events, each had to have its own set of VLANs to ensure timely delivery of data and competition results.

In fact, depending on individual requirements, each skill required three separate and secure VLANs, one for the outside network, one for the judging system, and then one for the competitors.

In total, the site ended up with over 100 VLANs and more than 400 DHCP scopes to determine allocation of IP addresses for the event. As one project manager put it, “It was like having 45 different technology companies on one network.”

This mammoth project also included 96 fiber drops and 75 wireless access points, as well as two network operating systems, one for monitoring traffic during the event, the other a simulation for public observation and learning.

In addition, this wired/wireless networking infrastructure had to support more than 1,200 monitors and displays, 800 desktop systems, 100 laptops, over 200 printers and plotters, 450 cell phones and 200 CB radios.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the entire project was the fact that the team had only six months to complete the installation. Given the size and scope of this network, this type of job would normally have taken two years to plan and implement.

An integral part of accelerating the process was the tools used for the testing, certification, monitoring and analysis of the vast and complex network cabling infrastructure.

As a Gold Sponsor of WorldSkills Calgary 2009 and a Global Industry Partner of WorldSkills International, Fluke Networks, provided a number of instruments for the site’s networking team, which included 10 Cisco Academy students, 40 volunteers and 30 paid employees from the City of Calgary.

Their job was to ensure the integrity of the copper and fiber cabling for the network, that all end drops were up and running in time for the show, and that there would be no network slowdowns or downtimes throughout the event.

During the installation stages, the team used Optiview Integrated Network Analyzers to verify throughput from building-to-building via end drops. This tool also proved valuable in troubleshooting drops that had problems, such as crossed, broken and/or open wires. With the ability to combine protocol analysis, active discovery, SNMP device analysis and RMON 2 traffic analysis in one tool, users were able to get a complete view of all seven network layers.

Team members were also able to speed copper and fiber certification through the use of devices able to ensure that the Category 6 cabling installations complied with industry standards three times faster than more conventional testers.

Once the event was up and running and the network functioning at full speed, NetFlow Tracker was used to conduct real-time monitoring of NetFlow and IPFIX data for visibility and troubleshooting.

This provided insight into how traffic usage from data and voice to video streaming was having an impact on overall network performance. In addition, ongoing data was able to be collected, stored and reported on an ongoing basis.

Finally, an Application Performance Appliance (APA), a proprietary hardware/software component, fed application performance data to the Visual Performance Management server at the site.

This technology is typically used for monitoring server farms in data centres to collect data on ports, switches, application servers, database servers, media services and DNS/DHCP servers.

After four and a half days keeping the lines of communication moving at WorldSkills, the infrastructure had done its job. But this networking story did not end at the closing ceremonies.

Once everything was dismantled, the equipment was put into a legacy fund to be distributed to selected schools throughout the province. In the meantime, the technology template will be stored for use at future WorldSkills and educational events.

Matt Humphries is a senior technical specialist with Fluke Networks Canada.

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Once everything was dismantled, the equipment was put into a legacy fund to be distributed to selected schools throughout the province.