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 (s 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.
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.