Network Monitoring Use Case: SIGGRAPH 2019

By September 4, 2019Customers

SIGGRAPH 2019

SIGGRAPH returned this year to the Los Angeles Convention Center, featuring global innovators showing the latest in computer graphics, animation, VR, gaming, and emerging technologies. 18,700 people from around the world attended and were able to get a glimpse of the future.

Exhibitors, volunteers, and staff require a stable and reliable network for the duration of the conference to make a show like this successful. As in 2017 and 2018, the SIGGRAPH GraphicsNet team of volunteers were responsible for the planning, deployment, and support of the conference network. NetBeez has worked with the GraphicsNet team over these past three years to provide a valuable service in monitoring the health of this network.

Planning and Preparation

During the wrap-up of each SIGGRAPH conference, the GraphicsNet team tears down and packs up our networking gear in storage crates until the next conference. This presents a challenge for preparing our NetBeez agents when we arrive to assess/deploy the network for the show. The NetBeez RasPi agents sit in storage, which means that the agent images remain out of date and inactive until the volunteers can touch them again. Additionally, the dashboard is torn down as our short-lived service donation expires shortly after each show.

This year, the GraphicsNet team engaged the NetBeez team a few months before arriving onsite at the show. This allowed for ample time to discuss requirements and workarounds. NetBeez assessed our agent needs and provided/approved the NetBeez service donation. Panos also stepped in to spin up the dashboard, providing updated NetBeez agents, and helping clone the image to 30 GraphicsNet-provided microSD cards. Additionally, Panos provided support for us during the show. 

During the Show

Once on site, the GraphicsNet team began cloning images onto microSD cards which had been kept in storage in order to provide a buffer in case we needed more than the prepared 30. Once the agents were ready and registered on the dashboard, they were assigned simple ping, DNS, and HTTP tests and were deployed to venues and sites where wired and wireless network were critical.

This year’s network deployment was very successful and frictionless! In part, thanks to the pre-work and support provided by Stefano, Panos, and the NetBeez team.

What did NetBeez reveal?

While our use of NetBeez was straightforward and didn’t employ many advanced features or testing, we were able to verify that certain venues and show areas were problematic. This confirmed suspicions that the GraphicsNet team had in the past about certain venues. The data and reports gathered from NetBeez will be used for discussions and planning in the future.

In particular, we were able to validate that the SIGGRAPH Garage venue was in a sub-optimal area which initially resulted in degraded network quality and unreliable performance.

The two images above are two lines from our NetBeez agent report. The “Garage” and “GarageStaff” agents were WiFi-connected agents placed at the venue, one testing wireless connectivity and service from an access point GraphicsNet provided and the other from the conference-provided access point.

The GraphicsNet team suspected that this venue would be particularly problematic because the Garage was positioned right next to the exhibit show floor, where many outside vendors set up booths and run their own network setups. These network setups can involve WiFi and end up congesting the network space.

NetBeez highlighted unreliability at this area, and prompted our GraphicsNet team to set our antenna broadcasting power on our access point to max; unfortunately, this only worked at the quiet hours of the day and continued to fail during the peak hours. The Staff network was more reliable since the conference-provided access point utilized uni-directional antennas that were able to focus on a particular section of the show floor.

Thanks to the information validated by NetBeez, the GraphicsNet team has certain options to discuss in future years regarding venues such as these.

Conclusion

Once again, the GraphicsNet team is grateful for the donation and support that NetBeez has provided. The deployed agents served as an early warning system for problems experienced on the network, while reports generated from these areas will help us to better plan for future shows. We look forward to working with NetBeez in future shows and are excited for new features to come.

About the Author

Stanley is a volunteer for the SIGGRAPH GraphicsNet subcommittee. At SIGGRAPH, he and his team design, deploy, and manage the conference network infrastructure. Outside of volunteering, Stanley is a computer security professional and works to help make the digital world a safer place.