Palais des Congres upgrades at breakneck speed

Upgrading network infrastructure is never exactly what you’d call easy, but try turning it around over a weekend.

That was the task set before the Palais des Congrès, a convention centre in downtown Montreal. The

Palais is still in the midst of an expansion which will double its size from 100,000 sq. ft. to 200,000 sq. ft. The centre has been open for business since it began rennovations last year and hosted one of its largest customers, the Pulp and Paper Technical Association of Canada, in January as part of Paper Week International. The trade show attracts 14,000 visitors and exhibitors and is worth approximately $25 million in revenue for the city of Montreal.

But before any of that could happen, the Palais had to install Nortel Passport 8000 series and Business Policy Switches. The equipment was delivered by Montreal reseller Nedco Canada, which had to coordinate deliveries with 30 different vendors supplying everything from cabinets to screws. “”Our job was just-in-time delivery for the Palais because our time frame was very, very short,”” said Robert Tremblay, national director of sales and marketing. That was Friday; the Pulp and Paper Trade show was scheduled for Monday.

Nedco called upon Nortel distributor Mississauga, Ont.-based Westcon Canada, “”because when they got it there they realized there was a need for a complete network infrastructure design and it had to be done on-site over the weekend,”” said Westcon’s Canadian general manager, Lynn Smurphwaite-Murphy. “”There was no time to do a proof of concept, they just had to get it done right the first time.””

The Palais des Congrès’ prime technician, Réjean Roy, was also feeling the heat. “”I called Pascal Fortin (technical manager for Westcon) on Friday afternoon, and said, ‘I need your help. I have to do a network for tomorrow morning.’ He came on the Friday and he programmed the switch. We have six VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks), so that was okay for the show.””

Time constraints meant that only a very basic configuration could be used for the Nortel equipment. “”For the moment, it’s still working, but we have to change the whole installation,”” said Roy. The Palais has hosted several trade shows since Pulp and Paper — the International Society on Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy will start their show this weekend — with the existing configuration, but Roy aims to update it in October, once all the rennovations are finished.

The Palais also has a wireless network, but Roy says it doesn’t see much use these days. It’s slow and he’s concerned about how secure it is. That too may see an upgrade, but not just yet. “”Maybe in the future, if the technology is better,”” said Roy.

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