When President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney squared off Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Florida in the final presidential debate before the election, it was the culmination of months of hard work and preparation from a Florida VAR that helped make it all possible.
Modcomp, based in Deerfield Beach, Fla., provided the complete IT infrastructure necessary to run the event and provide Internet access for nearly 1,000 media and members of the candidates' staffs.
Under guidelines set by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the entire infrastructure had to be new; it couldn't be run off of Lynn University's existing IT for security purposes. That gave any VAR that responded to the request for proposal the freedom to build an enterprise-class solution from scratch. Modcomp, which had a prior relationship with Lynn University, won the deal thanks to its detailed Cisco Systems solution and some negotiation with the university, said Jonathan Greenberg, senior consultant with the solution provider.
"We had to provide a VOIP solution, wireless solution and a NAC solution that we used Cisco ISE for," Greenberg said. The Cisco Identity Services Engine solution enabled Lynn University to bill the media and candidates for Internet and phone access, Greenberg said.
"They didn't want anyone permitted unless they had credentials to the access," he said.
Modcomp started working on the deal in June and dedicated full-time resources to the project from July until the Oct. 22 debate, Greenberg said.
The VAR had never implemented a debate project before, so it learned a few things along the way, including the Cisco ISE solution, which it had never sold before either, Greenberg said.
"We've worked with a lot of different technologies, but that was new to us. High-density wireless was also new for us," he said.
Modcomp was already certified in Cisco's data center offerings, but had some resources go through additional training to get ISE certified, as well as take some additional wireless and AirMagnet classes, Greenberg said, but he noted, "The class is one thing. Production is another."
Modcomp built and tested the solution before anybody arrived on site, but as is often the case, additional tweaking and fine-tuning was needed right up until the event.
In addition to Modcomp's staff, Cisco brought in its entire SLED pre-sales team from Florida to help with the rollout, Greenberg said.
"It was a ton of hours. Maybe I would have been nervous [the night of the debate] if I wasn't so tired. We were working 16-hour days, and I had one day off out of 14 leading up to the debate," he said. "During the debate I was relaxed. We had to make some minor [changes] to accommodate some people, but it wasn't too nerve wracking."
The debate ran smoothly from a technical perspective, and Lynn University is planning to use the debate equipment as part of a network refresh, Greenberg said. "They have a bunch of old 6500s and older switches and devices, and they're going to put in the Nexus 7000 [switches] running all 10-GB and some 20-GB backbone that they will slowly roll in to the production environment," he said.
"Definitely the debate was a unique challenge. It's different than other enterprise deployments we do. The biggest challenge is there's no rollback plan. Once it's there, it's gotta work. It was a great experience and we would definitely do it for another customer," Greenberg said.
PUBLISHED NOV. 5, 2012