RSNAnet gives off flash in the LAN

December 1, 2002

RSNAnet, the backbone communications network infrastructure for the RSNA meeting, resembles a Hollywood marriage: It exists in high visibility, endures enormous pressure, and lasts only a few days.But like all proper weddings, RSNAnet has something

RSNAnet, the backbone communications network infrastructure for the RSNA meeting, resembles a Hollywood marriage: It exists in high visibility, endures enormous pressure, and lasts only a few days.

But like all proper weddings, RSNAnet has something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

Something old.

What started in 1991 as a network of 10 Sun machines in the East Hall supported by two technicians has grown to a full-fledged 100-Mb Ethernet giant consisting of 116 networks and 400 drops, designed, built, and supported for the 10th consecutive year by a staff of 10 from iNOC, a communications company with offices in Madison, WI, and Northbrook, IL.

Much like years past, RSNAnet has a redundant fiber-optic gigabit backbone terminating in main communications pedestals located on the floor of each of the three conference buildings. If one dies, the system quickly goes over to the other.

Something new.

"This year, the RSNA began buying some of the gear," said Rick Smith, iNOC's chief technology officer. "They haven't bought it all. Extreme Networks loaned about 30% of the backbone gear, but the RSNA bought Dell switches for the 30 or more closets."

Another new feature this year is security-related.

"We brought in a security company (Lancope), a move necessitated by an exposure last year to the Nimda virus that emerged a week or so before the show," Smith said. "A lot of the computers brought in for the exhibit were infected."

Nimda clogged the network by generating a huge amount of traffic, causing Smith and his team to scramble hard to install Nimda-blocking software in the routers.

"This year, not only do we have Nimda blocking on the routers, we also have Lancope's IDS probe, so if Nimda does surface within the show, we can immediately detect where it's coming from and go out there and tell them to shut their machine off," he said.

Something borrowed.

In the past, most of the communications equipment was loaned to the show, but it's getting harder and harder to get loaner gear out of companies because of the economy, according to Smith.

"They just don't have hardware sitting around anymore," he said.

Something blue.

Visitors can watch Smith and his team operate the network and monitor the show through the windows in the corner cubicle not much larger than one of the router closets just inside the infoRAD entrance. The team members are the ones in the bright blue shirts with loaner companies listed on the backs.