Did I mention volunteers? You bet, the bulk of the tech staff that put together the InteropNET are volunteers; in fact, most of them have to pay their own way to the show. However, it's this group of superb networking engineers that year in and year out pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. So while there are always veterans in the team, the volunteer list is searched by the lead engineer and the InteropNET program management for potential new recruits. Again, it's not always the person with the most experience; many times, it's the appropriateness of the experience, how well they seem to be able to work with others (recommendations by previous team members), and willingness to work hard. Yeah, we all put in some really long hours to build the world's largest temporary network, and we sure don't do it for the pay. I started volunteering in 1995 and have been coming back to work with the very best in the industry and, most importantly, to learn. So part of the RFP should also include what kinds of education the vendor is willing to provide for the volunteer workforce. Keeping in mind that this group is very much an extended family, with "past noc" members attending each other's weddings, graduations, promotions, and holidays.
Well, imagine it's March, and vendor engineers and team leads (think technical management for the show; each lead responsible is for a different facet of the InteropNET) converge on a warehouse in Fremont, Calif. The bits and pieces from various vendors have been arriving now for a couple of weeks and have been inventoried by the warehouse staff. For the Las Vegas show, the team has roughly two weeks to go from bare floor to a completed network ready to pack into trucks. This is HotStage, and this is where the design is fine-tuned, the gotchas worked out, and the sparkly bits configured. Testing is done all the way up to a plugs-out test where the team makes sure everything transfers to UPS correctly and that a graceful shutdown is possible.