Technology conferences are supposed to have Internet. Most don’t. In fact, audiences are trained to be grateful for even a trickle of bandwidth. Maybe enough to get off a Tweet or two. But uploading photos and videos is something that you do later, after the event is over. Because it can take days.
It’s been a real problem for us over the years. We’ve thrown money at the problem. We’ve tried new vendors and technologies. We’ve prayed. And cursed. I’ve offered vendors a big wet kiss of a post on TechCrunch if they could get it right. They never have.
Last year we had a full day Internet outage at TechCrunch50, and it wasn’t better on day 2. The only good thing about an Internet outage is that most attendees can’t blog or tweet about it, since they can’t get on the Internet.
Giving 2,000 hard core Internet users simultaneous access from a single location is very, very hard. I’ve seen grown men cry when they tried and failed.
This year, though, WOW. There was more Internet at TechCrunch50 than you could shake a stick at. And for that, Mariette Systems gets that big wet kiss I promised.
The team: Ernie Mariette, Cliff Skolnick and Tim Pozar. They came in, brought bandwidth (100 Mbps line-of-sight microwave link from WiLine and 30 Mbps from Telekenex), hooked it into a BSD router and distributed it throughout the building via more than 100 Cisco switches and 28 wifi access points. There were hundreds of ethernet connections (and power strips) at attendee tables. Plus dedicated bandwith to Ustream, the DemoPit area and the main stage. And, overall, lots of very happy attendees.
There were more than 1,200 simultaneous connections at peak points, and bursts of up to 88 Mbps inbound bandwidth usage. But no one was ever cut back. And I noticed multiple people in the audience watching the live Ustream feed on their laptops. Others were watching the US Open livestream. In other words, the audience was totally wasting bandwidth. And it was wonderful.
In fact, I was a little disappointed that the audience failed to make our Internet fail. They tried their best, and were found wanting.
Thanks very much, Mariette Systems. We owe you. And we love you. Keep doing Apple’s WWDC and other huge events, but keep your calendar clear for our conferences, too. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.