July marked a busy month for Smart City, culminating with two large Microsoft events on opposing coasts with only a week separating them. TechReady, a semiannual 5-day internal technical conference for Microsoft employees was held at the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) in Seattle, Washington from July 26 – 30, just a week after Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (WEWCC) in Washington D.C. Meeting the demanding needs of both events meant that no detail was overlooked by each Smart City team in those cities with support of the NOC team in Las Vegas, which monitored both events.
The WPC is one of the meeting industry’s most coveted events for any convention destination. It is an annual gathering that provides a forum for over 14,000 Microsoft partners, from 130 countries, to connect with each other and with Microsoft staff, to learn about the latest Microsoft programs, strategies, and cutting-edge technologies. This year’s Worldwide Partner Conference was the largest in Microsoft’s history. Smart City supplied 227 drops on 10 VLANs, co-located Microsoft’s servers in our MDF, and provided an additional 500Mb primary circuit with 200Mb backup. Additional assistance for this event included two technicians from Orlando and Smart City’s Data Manager from Los Angeles. In addition to the usual technology upgrades that a conference of this caliber demands, the WPC held over 11,000 “Partner to Partner” and “Partner to Microsoft” virtual meetings that were scheduled using WPC Connect, Microsoft’s internal social network site for the WPC event.
On the opposite coast, the team at the Washington State Convention Center prepared for another smaller, but equally tech-savvy crowd of Microsoft employees at TechReady 11. During TechReady, Microsoft employees attend presentations and receive training in advance of upcoming Microsoft product releases for the year. For TechReady 11, Smart City provided 159 drops on 10 VLANs, co-located Microsoft’s servers in our MDF, and provided 2 OC- 3 (155 Mb each) circuits. The OC-3’s provided a significant boost in bandwidth usage as compared to other shows at the WSCC. “We have grown with this event and have learned and matured with our partners. In preparation for TechReady 11 we conducted additional testing and maintenance that allowed us to provide a rock-solid network that exceeded everyone’s expectations,” said Jim Snook, Smart City’s General Manager for the Washington State Convention Center.
While these two Microsoft events ran very smoothly, it has taken time and joint collaboration efforts to ensure this high level of efficiency. One of the biggest challenges in managing events of this scale is agreeing upon a standardized language of communicating technical aspects of the requirements. There are many terms in the networking world that can mean the same thing. For example, a port can be “tagged” or “trunked” and both of those terms essentially meaning the same thing. David Langford, Vice President of Technology for Smart City, came to realize early on the importance of each party speaking the same technical language: “Basically, I sat down with their manager at a show and said all this confusion is killing us, let’s be sure your team and my team are talking about the same things.” Both parties agreed upon a standardized language and have since had many successful and smooth running events. In addition to the common communication, working with Microsoft numerous times every year has enabled us to standardize the way we work with Microsoft on their large events. “Typically, Microsoft will have 8 – 10 VLANs. We have standardized with them the VLAN numbering scheme we use across the country. That way, we know when we talk about VLAN 650, Microsoft is talking about VLAN 650,” added Langford. These standardized systems and languages maximize the efficiency of our communication, and help avoid confusion or misunderstandings.
With TechReady returning to the WSCC biannually and next year’s WPC being held at the Los Angeles Convention Center (another Smart City facility), Smart City will be ready for the next innovation that Microsoft brings to its meetings.