As Ironman celebrates its thirtieth year in Australia, it continues to provide competitive athletes with amazing experiences. Ironman triathletes must complete a 3.4 km. swim, a 180 km. bike ride, and a 42.2 km. run in under 17 hours. The race is not for the faint hearted. For many, it’s a once in a lifetime accomplishment. Thousands of spectators line the course to cheer on participants as they tackle the grueling course and experience the satisfaction of crossing the finish line.
At Ironman Asia Pacific, George Shield is responsible for all Information Technology services. His role is to ensure that all devices connect when required and that events run smoothly. Since the introduction of the Meraki solution, the Ironman experience has improved significantly from the planning phase to registration and even to the post-event celebrations.
Meraki forms the cornerstone of Ironman’s network infrastructure. Meraki MR Access Points, MS Switches, and MX Security Appliances can be found in the four Australian and New Zealand offices, allowing employees both on-site and in remote locations to connect to the Ironman network.
The deployment of the PoE MS Switches and MR APs in the Asia Pacific offices proceeded smoothly. After the devices were configured in the cloud-based dashboard, they were then shipped to the offices and installed by non-technical staff. Once they were switched on, device settings were automatically downloaded via the cloud. That same day, Shield and Ironman’s external IT partners, Resolution Technology, not only had layer 7 visibility, but also had the ability to manage and troubleshoot the equipment from the dashboard, thus eliminating the need for an on-site hardware controller. Traffic shaping and bandwidth limitations on the APs have helped to ensure that bandwidth is not used up by a single application or user. With the lack of IT presence on-site, Meraki has helped the organization save time and resources as IT personnel no longer have to travel to resolve problems. IT can now look at device details and respond to changes in the network from anywhere in the world.
On the MX product line, auto provisioning site-to-site VPN connects branches securely without constant VPN configurations. This was one of the first MX features that Shield utilized. Not only do employees travel from event to event, but some also work from home, making the MX80 in the head office in Melbourne and the MX60s in home offices important elements in keeping people connected.
It takes a large team to make an Ironman event come to life and everyone plays a crucial role on-site. However, even during an event, our staff must continue working, planning, and organizing upcoming events. Things keep moving. This is where Meraki comes in by providing reliable Internet connectivity and VPN capabilities for our mobile staff. George Shield, Ironman Information Technology
Ironman has also taken Meraki equipment on the road to provide secure, easy to set up networks at nearly 20 races in the Asia Pacific region in the last year. These multi-million dollar productions require strong network connectivity throughout the pre and post-race venues, making Meraki equipment a crucial part of the Ironman experience.
As the event day approaches, Ironman staff ensure that the “event in a box,” filled with 30 APs and an MX80 Security Appliance, has arrived at the race location. This vacuum-sealed box supplies the network for the entire event, including 4G connections with different SSID policies set for corporate employees, large vendors, small vendors, and guests. Once equipment is on-site, a mesh network is created in the cloud, ensuring that network outages are prevented with multiple redundancies. Prior to deploying Meraki, IT had to configure each device on-site at each event, which took up valuable time. Now, set-up time has been halved because everything is pre-configured in the cloud.
Commercial operators attend each race and create multi-media experiences for participants and onlookers by streaming videos, pointing to web-based applications to collect visitor information, and by promoting event merchandise. Each vendor has different WiFi requirements and IT can now make modifications at a moment’s notice to various SSIDs on demand. This can be done with just a few clicks of the mouse.
For others signing onto the network, the process is simple. On-site guest network access is locked down by WPA encryption and is granted only through the Ironman splash page. Media access also goes through a custom splash page, but once granted, provides unlimited bandwidth for streaming. Event VIP members have 5MB of bandwidth and expo vendors have unlimited bandwidth. Traffic shaping has been put in place for both groups.
In order to secure more vendors and to make guided floor plan decisions, Ironman is looking at the dashboard heatmap and location analytics provided by Meraki APs. Meraki CMX (Connected Mobile Experience) capabilities include the ability to visualize where people are spending time over the course of an event. The most important aspect of the post-race event is merchandising so it is important to ensure that vendors are positioned in areas with maximum foot traffic. After each event, dashboard analytics are reviewed to see if tent floor plans need to be revised for future events.
Now, with the upgraded network in place and IT staff familiar with cloud management, Shield, with Resolution Technology, is working to develop an app that will enhance spectators’ experience by providing live information about the race.
The team assesses each piece of the network set-up before and after an event, allowing for constant improvements. With Meraki’s robust feature set, IT is confident that, as these events grow and more sponsors sign on, they can easily handle the increased load.