Juniper’s MX960 Universal Routing Platform Helps Set Guinness World Record at DreamHack
Aug 24, 2018
“I could talk for hours about DreamHack, but without being there it’s very difficult to describe. The atmosphere is extremely energetic in that everyone shares the same interest; people are very passionate about computers and gaming itself. People come to DreamHack because they love computer games.” ~ Markus Viitamäki, DreamHack CTO
Juniper Networks has a history of empowering service providers to take on network complexity and protect their critical infrastructure from cybercrime. Last June, Juniper carried on this legacy by assisting DreamHack, the world’s largest LAN party, with a one-of-a-kind challenge.
DreamHack draws thousands of gamers and cosplayers to vibrant festivals around the world, including its most popular event in Jönköping, Sweden. A multitude of events feature eSports tournaments, creative competitions, musical performances, lectures by game developers, streamer meet-and-greets, and much more.Over the resounding beat of electronic music, legions of gamers wage war in the world’s most popular video games like Super Smash Bros, League of Legends, and Fortnite.
DreamHack, launched in 1994 as a celebration of video games and computer art, was initially hosted at an elementary school in Malung, Sweden. The festival has grown over the years; today, it includes 10 events across Europe and North America. DreamHack attracts “a special mixture of the whole world, a whole ecosystem within gaming,” explains CTO Markus Viitamäki. He celebrates the evolving audience; attendance by Americans has grown 25% each year, while the share of female gamers has increased 10% over the last decade. From a technological standpoint, Viitamäki highlights the growth of streaming, a phenomenon in eSports that has energized the multi-billion dollar gaming industry and increased demand for next-generation networks.
For gamers intent on winning, a few milliseconds of lag can mean the difference between $50,000 for first place and nothing for ninth. Since its inception, DreamHack has always deployed the latest and greatest technology, giving attendees the best possible gaming experience.Viitamäki enjoys sharing DreamHack’s record-breaking history, recalling how they started out with a single 40 Gbps optical line from Stockholm. This year, the festival set a world’s record for the fastest Internet speed ever achieved at an event: 1.6 Tbps over redundant DWDM links for complete site reliability. To put this into perspective, 1.6 Tbps would allow 5.3 million people to simultaneously stream Spotify at the highest quality setting while 123,000 more watch Netflix in HD.
Connecting legions of mages, tanks, and fighters, Juniper’s MX960 5G Universal Routing Platform acted as the ultimate support character, ensuring order throughout the DreamHack universe. Working with Swedish telecommunications company Com Hem, Juniper provided two MX960s loaded with MPC7E line cards, along with several EX4600 and EX2300 Ethernet switches in the network’s aggregation layer (as shown in the figure below). ComHem used two DWDM links to carry DreamHack’s traffic over 324 km to data centers in Stockholm. In Jönköping, servers provided tens of thousands of attendees with a seamless gaming experience. With the MX960s running Junos OS to provide extensive programmability and cutting-edge automation, DreamHack achieved new levels of time savings by provisioning, monitoring, and decommissioning the show network at the touch of a button.
Juniper’s MX960 continues to reshape how Viitamäki deploys networks, allowing his team to focus on automation and world-class performance. Given that “users have high demands on how the Internet should be, and how stable it must be,” Viitamäki values the MX Series’ programmability and feels “very happy with the performance of the MX960, both in terms of stability and performance.” The MX960 not only connects gamers to a superior network, it also challenges and inspires a new generation of network engineers. Rather than employing full-time staff or freelancers, Markus Viitamäki works with a small team of volunteers ranging from senior professionals to university students, all working together to push the boundaries of networking.
DreamHack isn’t just about eSports; it’s about forging new communities, and Juniper Networks continues to proudly engineer such transformative experiences. Recently we sat down with Markus for a quick Q&A to understand how important DreamHack is to him and why establishing a new benchmark for networking at an eSporting event is so important.
Q: How long have you been the CTO of DreamHack? What does that role entail?
I’ve been in the job for three years now, but I’ve been doing events for DreamHack around the world for the past 10 years. I’m in charge of all technical aspects, everything from TV production to running networks for events of different sizes, and at the same time planning for new events. With that said, I work with very talented colleagues who make everything happen.
Q: Could you speak to the atmosphere of DreamHack?
I could talk for hours about DreamHack, but without being there, it’s very difficult to describe. The atmosphere is extremely energetic in that everyone shares the same interest; people are very passionate about computers and gaming itself. I had never been to an event like that—I mean, you can be at a football event and some people don’t really care about football, they just come there for beer, for instance. People come to DreamHack because they love computer games. At the same time, we have such a broad offering. We have everything from live music acts to eSports tournaments to LAN tournaments. Then we have people who come there to meet people who they play with online, who don’t bring a computer but play hours and hours with those who are there. It’s a special mixture of the whole world, a whole ecosystem within gaming. It’s also a very gaming-oriented event, which attracts many tech-interested people. No alcohol, no drugs, with a zero-tolerance policy. This is where the new age will spend the most of their time. I mean, football will obviously be a big sport for a long time, if not forever, but we can say that more and more boys and girls come to our events and spend time there. The diversity, if you look at 10 years ago, we had about 6% of girls bringing a computer, now it’s up to 16%, as an example. This also varies based on location. So, there are a lot of things I like a lot with this as I am a gamer and tech nerd myself.
Q: What does your team look like, as DreamHack CTO?
The structure is quite different from many events; some events have lots of full-time employees and some have many freelancers. But we only have two people who are network or IT employees. Besides that, we mostly have volunteers. We attract a lot of young professionals and senior professionals in networking. Half of the volunteers are new to networking and are studying and going to universities, and the other half are senior network engineers who work for various big companies in Sweden—everything from the big SPs to large enterprises. They want to come here and build a network for basically the challenge of building such a big network in so few days, and at the same time to spend time with people who have the same interests.
Q: Can you elaborate on the role automation plays at DreamHack?
Building networks for an event that brings 1,500 computers is not a big deal itself—it’s quite fast done manually. But where we have put a lot of time and effort, and where many of our volunteers have found interest, is that we have started building our network much faster by automatically deploying based on templates. In most parts of our network, we have already fully automated the deployment of the MX960s. So those kinds of things we put a lot of effort into to make it very fast.
Q: What do you value most about Juniper’s involvement with DreamHack?
First off, I want to say that your depot department is probably the best depot we have ever worked with, so kudos to them. Besides that, we are very happy with the performance of the MX960. I think that the core routers are the key to our environment since our users have high demands on how the internet should be, and how stable it should be. We wouldn’t be happy if we had downtime, and we haven’t had downtime with Juniper. We are very happy with Juniper, from a stability and a performance standpoint. We have started using EX (Series) switches for our premium rows where we offer gigabit, every user gets gigabits with a 10 gig uplink, so that’s worked very well also.
Q: What record did you set?
The record was 1.6 terabits; we have always beat records, because we think it’s fun. We did 100 gigabit as the previous record, and now after 1.6 terabits, it’s going to be interesting what’s next, the next size will be when it comes to bandwidth. How we came to that design was with sixteen 100 gigabit links going into an optical fiber network and transported to Stockholm, and then out on the internet.
Q: Everyone got to see the central Hub of DreamHack — can you talk about that?
From an exposure perspective, I think the location of where the network hardware is probably the best location in the whole venue. People take pictures in front of it, because obviously they don’t have servers like that at home (or routers like that, for that matter).
Q: In premium areas, are senior attendees based in quiet areas with only Juniper gear?
Yes, that’s correct. When those attendees attach their equipment into those switches, they’re attaching to a Juniper box. Hardware is interesting to many people to a certain degree, but when you have a person on site, you get a way bigger attraction. They recognize the brand much more, and people understand that it’s important to keep the network running; you give your visitors a reason to understand what Juniper is.
Q: Can you talk about how you see DreamHack growing over the next couple of years?
What we’ve noticed quite fast is that the U.S. will be our biggest market in the future, and that most home computers are (in) Europe and North America. LANs, in general, are very small and few in the U.S. So, when we came with our brand and started actively working with events, we have seen a huge growth, almost 25% each year, for each event we have done in the U.S. We started with Austin and less than 1000 computers; we ended up three years later with 2200 computers. It’s a slow growth, we are aware of that, but it’s the growth that we like because it’s manageable. It aligns very well with how the market moves, and especially with how online gaming, in general, is shaping. The U.S. is probably the biggest focus when it comes to growth, though in Europe we’re growing also. It’s the grassroots community that we really build our growth on.