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titleNearly five years ago when we hosted our first LAN party we had no idea what to expect or any idea on how much it would grow in the future. Research online as far as what other LAN’s were using was one of the most helpful things. Because of that, as we prep for our 10th event I wanted to give everyone a look behind the scenes at our network. This should help give you an idea of what to start with if you plan on growing in the future.

Our network is sponsored by: Trendnet

Review by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes


The idea behind the network

The key to any good network, especially one that is so reliant on low latency and high speed file transfers, is an efficient layout. When you are talking 100 plus people the layout actually starts when planning out your tables. Each row of tables is going to run off of its own switch, meaning the largest table you could do a 24 port switch is a row of 20, if you added one more table the switch would be full leaving you no room to hook back up to the backbone. To prevent people from having too short of a network cable we typically run tables of 16, leaving us room to expand if needed.

table layout

Once you have your tables figured out, total up all of you tables and then add in any important servers. That number together will give you the number of ports you need on your backbone switch leaving one to go to your router. Each of the table switches plug directly into the backbone giving them the best possible connection. The key to remember here is you are going for a tree network topology. The idea is to give the shortest distance between any attendee and the servers. The backbone is also very important when it comes to file transfers. The backbone will carry all of the network traffic from between tables; meaning even if you are only running a 100Mb connection to the attendee a gig backbone will help prevent slowdowns. With 20 people at a table, trying to share a 100Mb connection to the backbone only leaves a 5Mb connection per person. At that point everyone might as well be playing at home on the internet.

Image 1


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.

 


What Equipment do we use?

Just like mentioned before, our equipment it broken down by our backbone and then our table switches. All of our switching equipment is Trendnet. Doing this makes support easier if you ever have problems and will cause fewer issues when hooking everything up. Networking is all about standards, but we have still found it to give us fewer issues when using only one brand over a mix and match of switches.

TEG-240WS c2_d1_2

Our Backbone Switch

We currently only need one backbone switch and that includes running all of the staff and our servers on that same switch to give the best connectivity to game servers hosted on staff PC’s. For that we use the Trendnet TEG-240WS 24 Port Gigabit Web Smart Switch. Here are the Specifications

Standards

IEEE 802.3 10Base-T 
IEEE 802.3u 100Base-TX
IEEE 802.3ab 1000Base-T 
IEEE 802.3z 1000Base-SX/LX (Mini-GBIC)
IEEE 802.3x Flow Control and Back Pressure
IEEE 802.1D Spanning Tree Protocol
IEEE 802.1p QoS
IEEE 802.1Q VLAN Tag
IEEE 802.1X Authentication
SNMP v1

Protocol

CSMA/CD

Transmission Method

Store-and-Forward

Interface

24 x 10/100/1000Mbps Auto-MDIX RJ-45 ports
2 x 1000Base-SX/LX Mini-GBIC slots (shared with Gigabit ports 23-24)

Network Media

Ethernet: UTP/STP Cat. 3, 4, 5 up to 100m 
Fast Ethernet: UTP/STP Cat. 5, 5e up to 100m
Gigabit: UTP/STP Cat. 5, 5e, 6 up to 100m

Data Transfer Rate

10Mbps: 10/20Mbps (Half/Full-Duplex)
100Mbps: 100/200Mbps (Half/Full-Duplex)
1000Mbps: 2000Mbps (Full-Duplex)

Data RAM Buffers

512KBytes per device

Filtering Address Table

8K entries per device

Switch Fabric

48Gbps forwarding capacity

Diagnostic LEDs

Per Unit: Power, System
Per Copper Gigabit Port: Link/ACT, 1000M, 100M
Per Mini-GBIC Port: Link/ACT, 1000M

Power Supply

100 ~ 240VAC 50/60Hz, internal universal switching power

Power Consumption

35 watts (max)

Dimension

440 x 210 x 44mm (17.3 x 8.3 x 1.73in.)

Weight

3kg (6.6lb)

Temperature

Operating: 0°C ~ 40°C (32°F ~ 104°F)
Storage: -10°C to 70°C (14°F to 158°F)

Humidity

Operating: 10 % ~ 90 % (non-condensing)
Storage: 5 % ~ 90 %(non-condensing)

Certifications

CE, FCC

As you can see the TEG-240WS has all of the requirements that we set forth before. It has the added benefit of giving us mini-GBIC slots for fiber if we ever need to expand beyond one backbone switch. Going with a Web Smart switch gives us most of the benefits of a managed switch (all of the features we need), while being a little cheaper in price. Buying managed Gigabit switches is still VERY expensive, even when used.

TEG S24Dg_d1_2

Table Switches

Our table switches are a lot simpler than our Backbone and are considerably cheaper. We went Trendnet 24 Port Gigabit GREENnet Switches Model number TEG-S24Dg. These fulfill all of our requirements including size and even have a full 48Gbps forwarding capacity, something that isn’t a requirement on table switches. Here are the specifications.

Standards

IEEE 802.3 10Base-T
IEEE 802.3u 100Base-TX
IEEE 802.3ab 1000Base-T
IEEE 802.3x Flow Control
IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet

Network Media

Ethernet: Cat. 5 up to 100 m

Fast Ethernet: Cat. 5 and 5e up to 100 m

Gigabit Ethernet: Cat. 5e and 6 up to 100 m

Data Rate

Ethernet: 10Mbps/20Mbps (half/full-duplex)

Fast Ethernet: 100Mbps/200Mbps (half/full-duplex)

Gigabit Ethernet: 2000Mbps (full-duplex)

Protocol / Topology

CSMA/CD, Star

Power Consumption

13 Watts (max.)

Switch Fabric

48Gbps

Interface

24 x 10/100/1000 Mbps Auto-MDIX RJ-45 ports

Power Button

On / off power button

Data RAM Buffer

3.5 MBits

Filtering Table

8 K entries

Jumbo Frame Support

Up to 9216Bytes

Diagnostic LED

Power, Link/ACT, 100Mbps, 1000Mbp

Power

100~240VAC, 50/60Hz Internal universal switching power

Dimension

280 x 180 x 44 mm (11 x 7 x 1.7 in.)

Weight

1.7 kg (3.8 lbs.)

Temperature

Operating: 0° ~ 40° C (32° ~ 104° F)

Storage: -10° ~ 70° C (14° ~ 158° F)

Humidity

Max. 90% (non-condensing)

Certifications

CE, FCC

I mentioned power usage earlier, the GREENnet Switches are designed to only use minimum voltage required meaning we will see the most efficient use of power as possible. The MAX power usage is a whopping 13 watts, when compared to the backbones 35 watts it’s even more impressive. That’s of course at maximum; depending on connection lengths and usage power consumption can be even less (70% less according to Trendnet). Another benefit we have found in the TEG-S24Dg that we didn’t realize when ordering was the built in power switch. This is great for resetting the network; you don’t even have to unplug the switch.

All in all we have been extremely happy with the network. We have been using the full Gigabit network using the Trendnet switches for a few events now and we haven’t had one network related issue. The internet is a whole different issue. We can cover how to cover internet at your event in another write-up. Best of luck with your event and feel free to comment if you have any questions. If this write-up is helpful for setting up your event, please post on the comments here and let us know! We would love to hear about the events that have been helped.  

TEG-S24Dg d3_2

Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: http://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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