Microsoft hits record WLAN at TechEd Amsterdam - plus VoIP!

by Guy Kewney | posted on 29 June 2004

A triumphant Andrew Cheeseman, who was forced to spend the last day of last year's TechEd in a pink tutu, looks like he's triumphed over the WiFi demons at this year's thrash - he reckons he is handling 30 megabits per second of Internet traffic - purely from wireless users - at the RAI conf centre in Amsterdam.

Guy Kewney

This year, he's added to the complexity, too, by including VoIP phone services to his conference network.

Cheeseman is the Events Systems Manager for Microsoft EMEA. In other words, he's the man who has to create an instant LAN for each one of Microsoft EMEA's international conferences around the world, showing up and installing over a thousand PCs all wired into the UK headquarters servers with virtual lan connections, and setting up the dozens of wireless access points, complete with authentication and security and virus and worm protection.

Touch wood, it looks like he's succeeded.

"This morning, we have already had more wireless users log in - before the keynote was over - than we've ever had at all Microsoft conferences in the past," Cheeseman told his audience.

If not flawless, the network was a huge improvement over the disaster that hit the TechEd conference in Barcelona in 2003, when it was virtually unusable. "We've had the network die a couple of times," conceded Cheeseman this year, "but by lunch time, we'd had 5,000 logins purely to the wireless network, and apart from that couple of glitches, it's working."

He wasn't taking chances with voice over IP, however. That isn't going over WLAN; that's restricted to a group of wired-in PCs with proper ePhone gateways, plugged into an Eicon server, giving local Amsterdam phone numbers to every delegate. "It's a separate VLAN," said Cheeseman. "Delegates won't be able to access that over the wireless network; it's a separate, optimised server purely for the voice traffic."

Microsoft won't be counting its chickens, however, until the show is over on Friday. Last year's show started equally triumphantly, with the boast that it was the biggest ever and that it was supporting two WiFi standards, 11b/g at 2.4 GHz and 11a at 5 GHz. That fell over as the first day went on.

This year, though he sounds more optimistic, there is no hostage-taking on Fortune's behalf. Last year, he said he'd appear on stage in a pink tutu if the network didn't work. This year, no such rash promises - despite the fact that, now he's more than 140 pounds lighter on the scales, he'd look far better than he did in Barcelona.

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