We all remember the phrase, “It's the economy, stupid,” made famous by political strategist James Carville, who hung it on a sign in Bill Clinton's Little Rock campaign office.

During the engineering charette for , it was determined that the Ethernet network was going to be the crucial design element of this system. The Cirque du Soleil, Auerbach, and Strand team members, led by Jeanette Farmer, decided that to fulfill the “maximum flexibility” mission statement, every control device needed to be able to communicate across the Strand ShowNet network. This meant that even a simple custodial key switch would need the ability to control output device properties across the network.

This was no small task, but all of the hard work by the team members paid off during the load in and production for the show. Since any input device (console, touch screen, key switch, button station) had the potential to be configured to access any output device, total system flexibility was achieved. Cirque du Soleil now had the ability (in software) to re-configure their system based on the almost daily changing needs of the production. The following list of equipment represents the major elements of the network (see main gear list for specific manufacturers).

9 lighting consoles
4 wireless personal digital assistants
1 wireless laptop for remote video/console
1 WYSIWYG system
2 touchscreen controllers w/ remote console video
4 touchscreen controllers
2,258 reporting dimmers
1,107 relay circuits
24 fluorescent ballast controllers
81 DMX512 output nodes
1 network file server PC
3 networked dimmer reporting PCs
24 24-Port 100mb switches
9 fiber-optic taps
427 CAT5E Ethernet taps (power over Ethernet)
3 wired Ethernet LANs
2 Wi-Fi wireless Ethernet LANs (PDA, DMX512)
2 subnets controlling 36,864 possible addresses

Michael M. Lay is vice president of systems engineering at Strand Lighting, Inc.