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What to look for in equipment

The equipment you pick out is just as important as how you lay everything out. By now you should have an idea of the number of ports required for your table switches and backbone, now it’s time to discuss what kind of equipment you will need for each of those.  As I mentioned before, if you have a slow backbone you are dead in the water, so let’s start there.  First I will explain what you should be looking for and then I will tell you about what we have gone with.

Image 2

Backbone

For the most important switch in your network, this will obviously be your most expensive switch. You can get away in most situations with an un managed switch but I have always preferred to go managed on the backbone to be able to monitor traffic from table to table. This will help you pin point any issues quickly if you have network slowdowns. Being able to do this quickly is especially important when you are in the middle of a tournament.

Next we need to figure out what speed ports we will need. With this being the backbone its recommended that you go with a full gig switch even if you aren’t planning on running full gigabit to each seat.

The last thing that is important to look at is Total Switching Capacity. Total Switching Capacity means how much data can the switch handle at once, with this being a backbone switch you are looking for this number to be at minimum what the total number of ports can transfer. So 24 ports multiplied by 2000 (one gig each way for full duplex), 48000 Mb/s or 48Gb/s. It highly unlikely that you will ever need to use even half of that capacity. But it gives you a nice buffer preventing you from running the switch at capacity.

Image 3

Table Switches

Table switches are a little less important when compared to the backbone, but it’s still important to know what to look for. Just like the backbone its important first to know how many ports you will need, something you should have already figured out when planning your table layout. Once you have decided on that you will need to decide on 100Mb or full Gigabit switches at each table. The cost difference between the two has gone down considerably but full gig still costs twice as much as a full 100Mb. Something else to consider is 100Mb to each seat with one gigabit backbone connection. You will find a lot of deals on this configuration on eBay as company’s upgrade to full gigabit. Unless you are going full gig, that would be my recommendation. Of course going full gigabit is still the way to go for the best performance to each attendee.

Once you have decided on gig or no gig you still do have to consider the same questions that we asked before of the backbone switch. The good thing is they are all a little less important. It’s still nice to look at total switching capacity, but there is no chance that every port is going to be running at full capacity. Unless each person on your network is running multiple SSD’s in raid 0.

Unlike the backbone going with a managed switch at this level will cost more than it’s worth. It would be nice to be able to break down how much bandwidth each person is using, but unless you are running 100Mb to each person it’s unlikely that you will ever need to pinpoint one person on network traffic (internet traffic is a different story all together). The truth is if you can afford to buy a managed switch to prevent anyone from over loading your 100Mb connection, you would be much better off using that same money to go with full Gigabit.

A few other things to consider when looking at your table switches that doesn’t matter on the backbone is switch size and power usage. The power usage isn’t as important, but when you’re trying to get every last watt out of a buildings power capacity, saving a little on the switch can be helpful when totaled across all of your switches. The size of the switch can be important on the table because, typically your switch is going to go right on the table in between attendee’s, The less room it takes up, the more room they will have. Full rack mounted switches take up a LOT of room when that person may only have a 3 foot area to work with in the first place.

 

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garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #21258 01 Dec 2011 19:12
A peak into our LAN's network and a few times for those of you who want to run your own LAN's
Angrypirate's Avatar
Angrypirate replied the topic: #21259 01 Dec 2011 19:24
This is exactly what I've been looking for...
Angrypirate's Avatar
Angrypirate replied the topic: #21261 01 Dec 2011 19:44
I am very curious to know how all of the internet traffic is handled and what you use for load balancing, if needed.
garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #21262 01 Dec 2011 19:50
I was planning on doing a second writeup on internet and handing the internet traffic if this was well received
L0rdG1gabyt3's Avatar
L0rdG1gabyt3 replied the topic: #21264 01 Dec 2011 20:50
Nice writeup. Thanks for the info! Looking forward to v10!
DrDeath's Avatar
DrDeath replied the topic: #21295 02 Dec 2011 00:38
Good article man (read the whole thing). The only thing I would consider, is hanging all dedicated servers off their own switch, which is uplinked directly to the primary switch. The reason for this would be, if anyone is transferring anything from a server, it's usually a large file (i.e. gaming, movies or music). You don't want that traffic propagating the entire network, from one table to another. Instead, traffic is going from the server switch to the table switch that requested it. It's not a huge deal, and you're not going to see great benefits from it, but it's considered best practices.
garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #21297 02 Dec 2011 00:55
Unless I'm confused by your post, we already do that. The backbone switch is where all of the servers are hooked up along with the uplink from each table switch.
Angrypirate's Avatar
Angrypirate replied the topic: #24316 28 Mar 2012 04:35
So Wes, how's that followup on handling the internet traffic coming along?
Twodavez's Avatar
Twodavez replied the topic: #24322 28 Mar 2012 05:46
Too bad you couldn't show the actual stats while at the LAN and condense it down to a nice 10-15 min video. It could be someting you could post on Youtube and even generate a little revenue for your efforts. ;)
garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #24324 28 Mar 2012 05:49

Angrypirate wrote: So Wes, how's that followup on handling the internet traffic coming along?


we were waiting on the new router that we got for this event. But as you all noticed the new router had problems when we hit about 100 people. Once I get through all of our sponsorship followups I will be working with TP-Link to track down the problem.

Once we do that, we can finally do the writeup
garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #24325 28 Mar 2012 05:51

Twodavez wrote: Too bad you couldn't show the actual stats while at the LAN and condense it down to a nice 10-15 min video. It could be someting you could post on Youtube and even generate a little revenue for your efforts. ;)


I really want to get setup and cleanup videos to show what goes into it all also. I have a feeling we will be following up with this specific writeup a few times until we have covered everything needed to know about setting up a LAN
Angrypirate's Avatar
Angrypirate replied the topic: #24375 29 Mar 2012 21:51
Good to hear. Can't wait to get all of your magical secrets...
garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #24377 29 Mar 2012 22:14
keep the feedback coming, I'm interested in what else you guys would like to see. To help me break up the writeups
Sideout's Avatar
Sideout replied the topic: #24469 04 Apr 2012 05:31
I think you should look at using PFSense for your router. Not only will you not reach a performance block with it but since it is open source , you can get some nice addons , bandwidthD is one , that will give you some interesting stats.

Here is the link ( www.pfsense.org/ ) . You can run it on basically any type of PC you have and you can add in multiple NIC's for different interfaces.

I use it at work to provide a captive portal on our public WiFi network.

An x86 based router is going to be able to handle the higher PPS compared to a router like a TP-Link.

Back in the day (2004 / 2005), we ran PFsense on an Intel PII-400 with 512MB of RAM and 2 NIC's with a small hard drive and at one lan party we logged and passed 16 TBytes of LAN / WAN traffic. Additionally we had two cable connections that were load balance and QoS based on traffic type.

It might take a bit more to setup but it is a much better solution imo.
neokeelo's Avatar
neokeelo replied the topic: #24581 10 Apr 2012 20:08
Nice article.

Im trying to help some buddies out with planning a LAN in a few months back in Tennessee.

If you wrote another article explaining how to manage the internet and also the name and settings of that LAN Check-In system you guys were using, it would be very helpful I think.

What is the name of that program you use to check everyone in and register for events?

From all of the events I have been to (probably over 50) LanOC was definitely the smoothest running event I have been to so far. Nice job guys.
Sideout's Avatar
Sideout replied the topic: #24610 12 Apr 2012 22:22
Not to give a spoiler alert but you might be able to see live LAN / WAN network stats at the next NeXus LAN event.

If the LanOC guys are there and are interested in doing something similar , I can help them out on setting it up.
Dreyvas's Avatar
Dreyvas replied the topic: #24611 12 Apr 2012 23:03

Sideout wrote: Not to give a spoiler alert but you might be able to see live LAN / WAN network stats at the next NeXus LAN event.

If the LanOC guys are there and are interested in doing something similar , I can help them out on setting it up.


Wes, I'm sure Alex and I could lend a hand with getting this set up as well if you are interested.
mianosm's Avatar
mianosm replied the topic: #25930 28 Jun 2012 20:47
Just surfing/browsing the web and stumbled upon this site.

Coming from another community that is actually doing the same thing as you guys - and just wanted to let you know the write up was great, and I look forward to any future installments for comparison and contrast to how we're currently setting things up. :)

The network for us seems absolutely solid, the issues we seem to run into more often than not is power issues (and mainly that comes about from the 4 guys with high performance quad-sli/xfire daisy chaining off of one outlet). ;)

Keep up the great work!
CNO's Avatar
CNO replied the topic: #36613 18 Apr 2015 08:15
Would it had been more advantageous to configure each switches ports bandwidth restrictions prior to deployment at an event? Granted, I haven't managed a LAN Party, however, the same considerations are at work in academic labs with 50+ workstations. We manage port traffic to limit web access, let alone LAN traffic, the same considerations are at work. Albeit, the majority of the students are 2-year IT students interfacing with mainly Cisco products. So, the decision not to configure the table switches, and configure the master switch, is a decision based on best practices pertaining to LAN Party experience? My thought here is without managing the local ports near the gamers, there is the potential for one or more clients to dominate a branch below the master, degrading neighboring clients. Were those ports also managed as well, balancing is insured, both at the master, as well, as each branch.
garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #36614 18 Apr 2015 13:51
Running managed switches on every table at a LAN event isn't really the best idea financially, at least early on. More to your point though, we haven't ever run into an issue where any one person or table has dominated the traffic the LAN traffic to the point where it caused slowdowns for people around them. File transfers up until very recently have always been limited by the transfer speed of the host and the write speed of the person pulling them, keeping any big transfers slow enough not to be a burden on users around them. With SSD's becoming more popular it is possible that we might run into the issue in the future, but like I said before the cost of buying managed switches for each table is huge and out of reach for most mid sized events.

That said, in a perfect situation setting a cap on each port at the table is a great way to prevent any one person from dominating network traffic for those around them
CNO's Avatar
CNO replied the topic: #36615 18 Apr 2015 17:37
From the perspective of network management, I can see it is not a 'genre' consideration. I assume network monitoring played a role in your decision. Do you have that data that supports this? My interest in your decisions is looking at the statistics over the net, over the entire event. Armed with this info I might gain a greater understanding of the network traffic, bandwidth load, and node considerations.
Sideout's Avatar
Sideout replied the topic: #36617 18 Apr 2015 22:26
2. How much aggregate (inbound and outbond) traffic did we pass at LanOC v16?

a. WAN traffic - 1.6TB Aggregate
b. LAN traffic - 6.02TB Aggregate

This is a new LanOC record. We had 3 TWC 50/5 modems in a load balancing round robin config and most of the time , we were at a solid 35Mbits on all 3 modems with it peaking to 45Mbits at times.

This gives you an idea of how much traffic we were pushing at the event. We ran a Dell 2824 Switch at the core feeding into PFSense on a 1 gigabit connection. The Vmware was using a LAG group on the Vmware / Switch side at 4Gbit.

In a perfect world , yes you could get managed switches and limit bandwidth at that level. I dont see any sponsor ponying up that hardware though.

Another factor we have is that with multiple modems , it is not possible to get a true load balanced solution so while we have 3 modems to the Internet , it is not a true 150Mbit. Again having one pipe to manage for that would make things simple as well but that is not the hand we have been dealt.

The goal with any QoS / Filtering / Throttling should be to balance the game play with the users ability to download or surf as needed. This last LanOC , it was the best one we had from that aspect. It is not an exact science when you factor in 140+ people in the room running all kinds of stuff like Spotify , Hamachi , Bit Torrent , UTorrent , and others on their PC - all leeching for the best amount of bandwidth they can get. Factor in as well game updates the day of and other download needs and you have a large amount of demand for a small pipe.

Not to mention we had one modem pretty much dedicated to streaming the LAN live so that cut into the bandwidth we had available.

if your interested in my setup I used for PFSense you can find it in the forums here or over at the pfsense forums.

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