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Summary:

One of the biggest challenges of hosting Green:Net, our sold-out conference about IT and sustainable technologies, was bringing enough bandwidth to a crowd of some 400 people. We held the event at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco’s bucolic Presidio, surrounded by the deep blue […]

greennet_lunchbreak One of the biggest challenges of hosting Green:Net, our sold-out conference about IT and sustainable technologies, was bringing enough bandwidth to a crowd of some 400 people. We held the event at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco’s bucolic Presidio, surrounded by the deep blue ocean, majestic forest and equally majestic Golden Gate Bridge. It was an idyllic backdrop for an industry event aimed at those with a lot of idealism.

But while the location was aesthetically pleasing, as it was somewhat off the beaten path, the venue had its challenges — the biggest being network connectivity. With that in mind, we bought four business-class DSL connections from AT&T that were bonded together at a distant central office; we then received a connection to the venue over fiber. The total bandwidth was over 20 Mbps.

But that was only half the problem. We needed to get the bandwidth distributed over a large building with thick walls. On top of that we needed three wireless networks: one dedicated to sponsors, one to the media and most importantly, one dedicated to the attendees. So we turned to Meraki, a Mountain View, Calif.-based wireless network equipment maker.

Thanks to their 802.11n mesh network, the Wi-Fi worked like a charm, even in the basement, where our team had set up camp for the day.

In the main room Meraki installed two of their new “MR58″ devices, each of which have three so-called “N” radios and supply roughly 5X the capacity of a typical wireless access device. In the side rooms, they had their small plug-and-play access devices.

greennet_meraki

Outside in the yard, Meraki installed one of their solar-powered devices, which allowed folks to surf and chat while basking in the sun. All of this was managed through a web-cloud based controller, allowing one of the onsite Meraki engineers, Greg Williams, to walk around and test and tweak the network using just his iPhone.

Here are the final stats of the network for the entire day:

* Almost 400 users connected to the network
* About 13 GB of data was transferred on the network
* The majority of users accessed the MR58 devices in the main conference room
* Parklands B in the basement, the Cypress room on the first floor, and the Solar unit in the front of the venue also received a high degree of usage

Thanks to Meraki, in particular Ivan and Greg. You have no idea how great it was to have a wireless network that worked.

By Om Malik

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  1. I’m just curious how many people were twittering and what sites they visited. That’s always interesting to me.

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    1. not sure but there were a whole lot of tweets and that sort of stuff. I don’t think Meraki gets that granular. check out the summize search for #greennet. http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23greennet

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  2. Merakai is cool, but I don’t see why it’s so hard to provide wireless internet. This is something that even the least knowledgeable person can get going in their household, right?

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    1. You would think it would be easy to get reliable WiFi but at most conferences, the biggest complaint is “the WiFi isn’t working.” As you roamed the halls at Green:Net you could hear attendees being surprised that the WiFi actually worked consistently all day.

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    2. Meraki really is easy to get going and you need hardly any knowledge if doing it at home. As long as you have an internet connection it is pretty much plug and play. One point is that for an event like this the complexity is understanding where to put the units but as pointed out that is easy to tweak with something as simple as and iphone or itouch.

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  3. Really interesting – thanks for sharing, Om.

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  4. You would think it would be easy to get reliable WiFi but at most conferences, the biggest complaint is “the WiFi isn’t working.” As you roamed the halls at Green:Net you could hear attendees being surprised that the WiFi actually worked consistently all day.
    BTW I love your blog!

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  5. [...] the painstaking efforts to minimize the environmental impact of Green:Net. Om Malik’s “How Meraki Helped Wire Up Our Green:Net Conference” has all the angles covered on the Meraki solar-powered Wi-Fi repeater except for my slideshow [...]

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  6. [...] the painstaking efforts to minimize the environmental impact of Green:Net. Om Malik’s “How Meraki Helped Wire Up Our Green:Net Conference” has all the angles covered on the Meraki solar-powered Wi-Fi repeater except for my Picasa [...]

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  7. Did you guys just put it up for the event? Doesn’t ATT normally required to sign 1 yr contract..

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  8. Bit late to this one but an interesting article all
    the same.
    Just wondering if there were any other alternatives
    to Meraki that you considered?
    Mike

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