Computer networking has become an integral part of both the computer graphics community and the SIGGRAPH conference. As part of the conference infrastructure, SIGGRAPH 96 installed a state-of-the-art intranet linking programs and exhibitors within the conference to the global graphics community. This networked graphics environment provided an international communications forum for attendees, exhibitors, contributors, and remote participants.

Requirements | Architecture | Design and Implementation
Network Software | Network Hardware | System Schematic | Acknowledgements

Creating such an environment requires supporting the transport of full-motion video, high-resolution graphics, audio, and raw data. A high-bandwidth, low-latency, reliable network is required to support such transport. The ATM-based switched internetwork that was considered technical innovation as recently as SIGGRAPH 95 is now expected by contributors and exhibitors.

The process for meeting the above requirements began with an analysis of the multitude of applications supported at SIGGRAPH 95 and expected growth at SIGGRAPH 96. This analysis led to the design and implementation phase that resulted the SIGGRAPH 96 GraphicsNet configuration.


A major growth area in the design was the requirement for more Internet support. This was driven by exhibitors and contributors relying on the World Wide Web for their demonstrations. Additionally, all of the technical programs had networked computers for access to the WWW during presentations. Internet access was available to all conference participants. The SIGGRAPH 96 information kiosks, composed of clusters of Hewlett-Packard workstations, were connected to the conference Web server and provided onsite up-to-date information about the conference. Each individual connection was not a significant consumer of bandwidth by itself. However, the aggregate bandwidth was well above 10 Mbps, necessitating a T3 (45Mbps) Internet connection as part of the solution.

Internal to the conference, there were several high-bandwith applications that required ATM transport capability. For instance, live video from the Keynote Address was distributed into the Digital Bayou and Applications area. Also, some exhibitors and Digital Bayou contributors participated in interactive simulations using the Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) virtual environment. Yet another high-bandwidth application was an onsite oceanographic simulation with real-time access to a remote supercomputer. External WAN (wide-area network) connections were required in at least two areas. The Bridge: SIGGRAPH 96 Art show had two sites, one at the convention center and another at the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). These two sites required a network link for presentation of interactive technologies and collaborative efforts. The second WAN was for offsite speakers in the Papers and Panels programs.


At SIGGRAPH 96, GraphicsNet featured LAN Emulation over ATM (ATM Forum LANE 1.0 standard). LANE provides transparent support for multiple network protocols over an ATM backbone. Using ATM and LANE allowed segregation of the logical network design from the physical network infrastructure. This led to a simplified flat addressing network design that supported high-bandwidth requirements and multicasting. Direct ATM-attached workstations, ATM/Ethernet (edge of backbone) devices providing distributed routing functions, and the T3 Internet and WAN services were connected to a backbone of ATM switches distributed throughout the convention center.

Design and Implementation

The main SIGGRAPH 96 networking goal was an intranet that was simple to set up, easy to maintain, reliable, and state-of-the-art. The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center has an extensive network infrastructure in place. The facility provides fiber and 10BaseT connectivity to almost any internal location on a timely basis and at a competitive price. Using network utilization information from SIGGRAPH 95, ATM technology, and the existing cable plant design, we quickly developed a baseline network backbone design.

NetSuite Professional Design software was used to help design the network. This tool provided network diagrams, physical design and topology validation, a database for IP address planning and asset reporting, and automatic HTML generation. In effect, NetSuite was the network database, an ideal tool for design, implementation, and management of this complex network.

Network Software

Sun's Netra Internet Servers were used to host Web and email services and provide Domain Name Services (DNS) for SIGGRAPH 96. The servers used the POP2/3 and IMAP mail protocols and included the latest available software from JavaSoft and Netscape with a complete security/firewall facility. The DNS configuration and management were handled by Inter Commerce Corporation (ICC). ForeThought networking software was used to manage the ATM switch backbone infrastructure and the LANE intranetwork. This software also supported VLAN bridging and router support within the intranet. The network management platform was ForeView running under SunNetManager on Sparcstations.

Network Hardware

The ATM backbone was composed of one FORE Systems ForeRunner ASX-1000 ATM switch and 25 FORE Systems ForeRunner ASX-200BX ATM switches. The ASX-1000 was the main switch, and each of the other switches was linked to it by either a 155 Mbps multi-mode OC-3c connection or a 622 Mbps multi-mode OC-12c connection. The switches were placed in equipment rooms, catwalks above the exhibit floor, or individual rooms.

The T3 Internet link was connected to a Cisco 7500 series router located in the convention center's demarcation room. This router was directly connected to an ASX-200BX switch and to another Cisco 7500 series router at the CAC. The T3 Internet link and the circuit between the CAC and the convention center were provided by Inter Commerce Corporation. External WAN connections also terminated in the demarcation room and were connected to the ASX-200BX located there.

Ethernet connectivity was via FORE Systems ES-3810 Ethernet Workgroup Switches and FORE Systems PowerHub 7000 Intelligent Switching hubs. The ES-3810s provided ATM LANE connectivity for 10BaseT desktop ports or four-port Ethernet hubs. The PowerHubs provided distributed routing functionality for the LANE intranetwork and additional 10BaseT segments. The switches and hubs were located in the catwalks above the exhibit floor or the convention center telephone closets.

Individual computers were connected to the network in one of three ways: direct ATM connection, 10BaseT switched Ethernet connection, or 10BaseT shared Ethernet connection. Ethernet hubs from both LANCAST and D-Link Systems were connected to the ATM/Ethernet switches to provide shared Ethernet connections.

Video was distributed over the ATM backbone with Nemesys Research's ATM video encoding and decoding products: the AVA 300 and ATV 300.

The Network Operations Center was the central point for configuring, monitoring, and maintaining GraphicsNet. It was located in Room 8 on the second floor of the convention center. Two other troubleshooting areas were located in the Digital Bayou offices and the Exhibitor Service Center.

The SIGGRAPH 96 Online kiosks used Hewlett-Packard C110 Visualize-48 workstations.

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Final SIGGRAPH 96 Web site update: 25 October 1996.
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