World Youth Day's IT hangover

The men, and the network, behind the largest and most technological religious youth gathering yet.

World Youth Day (WYD) looks set to have offered more than just salvation for pilgrims and inner-city chaos for the rest of Sydney, with some of the massive IT infrastructure behind the event earmarked for redistribution among Australian Catholic schools.

IT&T project manager for WYD, Josh Lemon, and the IT manager for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, Matt Browning, were behind the infrastructure that made WYD 2008 the most technologically advanced ever.

WYD's network utilised a Telstra-managed WAN infrastructure to provide access to the internal network of WYD's Sydney headquarters from two external WYD offices and from most event sites including Hyde Park, the Domain, Barangaroo and Randwick.

"We built a Citrix farm on HP blade equipment. Basically all the back-end infrastructure was stored in our head office - e-mail, file systems, document management etc - and accessed via a Citrix client. That allowed us to drop a computer anywhere, and any staff member from any site could log on at any site," Browning said.

Manning each WYD site with IT staff would have been too cost-prohibitive, so the Citrix model allowed everything from accreditation to incident handling to be managed and supported remotely, with IT staff required only at the major sites.

"We put server equipment at the two major sites with network imaging. There was a standard image that comes loaded with the Citrix client, printing drivers and all that sort of stuff, and it was basically just boot-from-the-network for each PC.

"For the smaller sites we imaged all of the machines here at the head office and then sent them out. There was a bit of a teething issue at the start but once we got the image and the infrastructure right, it was actually pretty painless. We had visibility of all our equipment from the operations centre," Browning said.

90 HP managed switches were used across all WYD sites, in addition to approximately 200 PCs and 16 HP 5400 series chassis switches acting as node backbone points for the mesh network at each of the two largest event sites, Barangaroo and Randwick.

Both of those main sites boasted a meshed 10-Gigabit backbone with roughly eight nodes on both sites.

"From one node there would be three 10-Gigabit fibres to three other nodes, so if we ever lost a connection the network would continue to run," Lemon said.

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Andrew Hendry

Computerworld
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