Big switch powers gaming tournament

It was the biggest LAN-based gaming event New Zealand has seen and involved $1 million worth of network equipment.

It was the biggest LAN-based gaming event New Zealand has seen and involved $1 million worth of network equipment.

It meant creating a temporary layer three switched and routed LAN that guaranteed gamers 100Mbit/s of bandwidth across the network, courtesy of 32 gigabit switches connected to a huge central Allied Telesyn Switchblade, which has 128GB/s backplane.

"It's a two tiered network," says Relihan Myburgh, co-director of Gamer Networks, the company which staged Equinox, held at Auckland's North Harbour Stadium over that city's anniversary weekend.

"The access switches the gamers plug into connected to the central core switch, which is directly connected to the servers.

"We chose that design to eliminate bottlenecks at the 32 desktop switches."

Each of the desktop switches enabled access to the network for 24 gamers, each with 100Mbit/s of bandwidth.

The $750,000 worth of actively-used network gear and $250,000 in back-up equipment (some of which was needed) came from Allied Telesyn, which had staff at the event and treated it as a research exercise for the equipment, especially the Switchblade, which Myburgh says is worth over $100,000.

Allied Telesyn support staffer Taylor Wilkins says keeping the network going was an "interesting" challenge, and not totally unlike the set-ups found on some campus LANs.

"There are networks out there of 4000 PCs talking to each without routers," Wilkins says.

The difference at Equinox was there was no consistency in the PCs -- numbering about 800 -- connected to the network.

"We learnt how chaotic a network is when each person brings their own PC with different operating systems, different skill levels and different traffic demands."

The Switchblade comes in two versions, the 4008, which has 32 gigabit ports and the 4004, which has 64. It was developed in Christchurch.

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