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Announcing wifi and intranet servers at EuroPython

We are pleased to announce that this year we have partnered with Fastweb and Devaus Oy to provide a top-notch Internet & Intranet wi-fi experience.

Wifi and Internet

We know how much wifi and Internet connection is important at a technical conference. Really, we do understand it. This is why we have started working very early to plan the wifi service for EuroPython 2012, after last year's problems.

To make sure that everything will go smooth, we have partnered with two companies that we are truly confident will provide a great service:

  • Fastweb Spa: It is the largest Italian ISP after the ex-incumbent. Together with the hotel staff, we made an agreement with them which will provide a 100 Mbps full-duplex fiber-optic link for EuroPython. This link should provide more than enough bandwidth for handling the traffic (this year's PyCon US had a good wifi service with a 50Mbps link, with 2250 attendees).
  • Devaus Oy: It is a company based in Finland, specialized in advanced networking services. It has already successfully handled wifi at large technical conferences, and this year, in cooperation with the Plone project, they will provide wired and wireless network at EuroPython.

Devaus has published an initial page with some information on the EuroPython network. We will obviously make more information available later on.

House your server/VM in our Intranet

We are also pleased to announce that, for the first time, we will be running an Intranet at EuroPython, to let sponsors, startups, open-source projects and speakers showcase their products directly within our network.

If you want to run a website, application or whatever else you want, we have two different free offers for you:

  • Housing: you can bring your pre-configured computer or even laptop, and we will plug it in within our data center. The data center is always locked and accessed only by the EuroPython network staff.
  • VM: we can give you immediate root access to a small VM running on one of our servers; they are small instances, but you can start configuring them in next weeks and we will bring the servers to EuroPython so that you don't have to carry any hardware.

If you want to be part of the EuroPython intranet, just drop us a line and we will find together the best solution for your project.

Why wifi didn't work well last year

Some people are still curious on why we had problems last year with the wifi. Obviously there was no single problem, but there were a few concurrent causes:

  • Insufficient bandwidth: we planned for 2 ADSL lines with a real data rate of 15Mbps down and 1Mbps up. This planning looks ridiculous in retrospect, but it was based on our previous experience at PyCon Italy where 1 of those lines was mostly able to handle ~330 people. The main difference was that, at PyCon Italy, each user was aggressively shaped (limited in bandwidth) while EuroPython network didn't have any per-using shaping policy. In addition to this, the two DSL lines had noise because of cross-talking (we had tested them independently but not at the same time!), so one of the two couldn't really go more than 9Mbps down and 512Kbps up.
  • Insufficient extra bandwidth: after the first morning, we already knew that upstream was the bottleneck; thus we pulled off some hat trick and managed to find a supplier that could activate a terrestrial 4Mbps symmetric radio link in 24 hours (that's the best we could do in one afternoon of phone calls!). Since the load-balancer could only handle two devices, we turned off one ADSL and started using the radio link and the other DSL. Alas, without any shaping policy, it looked like this setup was barely sufficient anyway.
  • Scalability problems with the authentication portal: Italy regulations forced us to use an authentication portal and to tunnel all the traffic via VPN to an ISP. The authentication portal (contrary to what one would expect) was running on remote servers, and thus accessed through the Internet link. Because the Internet link was always saturated, most people could usually not get through the authentication portal; this also means that *lots* of people were constantly hitting it at the same time. The problem was made even worse because every time an user changed access point or even disconnected, he had to reauthenticate through the portal. This whole network design (remote authentication portal, no AP roaming) might seem absurd for a conference, but it was expected because we were basically reusing a hotspot service that was designed for different use cases. The authentication portal itself was seeing too much traffic and could simply not handle it fast enough, causing timeouts and thus further disconnections and traffic to it. Obviously, we tried our best to fix the scalability problems on the portal, but it's not easy to do that in a couple of days (especially since the portal was actually a complex piece of software of which only a very small part was visible and accessible from EuroPython).

Lesson learnt, though: for EuroPython 2012, we have allocated a larger part of the budget for connectivity, and at the same time we worked hard to bring a much fatter pipe at an affordable price. Meanwhile, regulations in Italy changed and we will not be forced anymore to authenticate users: this means that we will run a standard WPA2 network with no captive portal. And since we have full trust in Devaus' proven expertise with technical conferences, we are now really looking forward to providing a really outstanding Internet experience at EuroPython. Get a ticket and see it yourself!

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Written by
06 April 2012


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