DOL-OSHA and FCC release Communications tower best practices

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Communications Commission are concerned about the risks faced by employees in the communication tower industry. Employees climb communication towers to perform construction and maintenance activities and face numerous hazards, including fall hazards, hazards associated with structural collapses and improper rigging and hoisting practices, and “struck-by” hazards.

You can read the safety document here.


The state of Data Centers and Co-Location in Indianapolis

We like to refer to Indianapolis, Indiana as an “NFL  City” when explaining the connectivity and peering landscape.  It is not a large network presence like Chicago or Ashburn but has enough networks to make it a place for great interconnects.

At the heart of Indianapolis is the Indy Telcom complex. (currently down as of this writing).  This is also referred to as the “Henry Street” complex because West Henry Street runs past several of the buildings.   This is a large complex with many buildings on it.

One of the things many of our clients ask about is getting connectivity from building to building on the Indy Telcom campus. Lifeline Data Centers ( ) operates a carrier hotel at 733 Henry. With at least 30 on-net carriers and access to many more 733 is the place to go for cross-connect connectivity in Indianapolis.   We have been told by Indy Telcom the conduits between the buildings on the campus are 100% full. This makes connectivity challenging at best when going between buildings. The campus has lots of space, but the buildings are on islands if you wish to establish dark fiber cross-connects between buildings. Many carriers have lit services, but due to the ways many carriers provision things getting a strand, or even a wave is not possible.  We do have some options from companies like Zayo or Lightedge for getting connectivity between buildings, but it is not like Chicago or other big Date centers.  However, there is a solution for those looking for to establish interconnections.   Lifeline also operates a facility at 401 North Shadeland, which is referred to as the EastGate facility. This facility is built on 41 acres, is FEDRAMP certified, and has a bunch of features.  There is a dark fiber ring going between 733 and 401.  This is ideal for folks looking for both co-location and connectivity.  Servers and other infrastructure can be housed at Eastgate and connectivity can be pulled from 733.  This solves the 100% full conduit issue with Indy Telcom. MidWest Internet Exchange ( ) is also on-net at both 401 and 733.

Another location where MidWest-IX is at is  365 Data Centers ( ) at 701 West Henry.  365 has a national footprint and thus draws some different clients than some of the other facilities.  365 operates Data centers in Tennessee, Michigan, New York, and others. MidWest has dark fiber over to 365 in order to bring them on their Indy fabric.

Another large presence at Henry Street is Lightbound ( ).  They have a couple of large facilities. According to PeeringDB, only three carriers are in their 731 facility.   However, their web-site lists 18+ carriers in their facilities. The web-site does not list these carriers.

I am a big fan of peeringdb for knowing who is at what facilities, where peering points are, and other geeky information.  Many of the facilities in Indianapolis are not listed on peering DB.  Some other Data Centers which we know about:

Zayo (
LightTower ( )
Indiana Fiber Network (IFN) (
Online Tech ( )

On the north side of Indianapolis, you have Expedient ( ) in Carmel. Expedient says they have “dozens of on net carriers among all markets”.  There are some other data centers in the Indianapolis Metro area. Data Cave in Columbus is within decent driving distance.

Where does Trill and VXLAN fit in your strategy?

As networking trends yo-yo between layer-3 and layer-2,  different protocols have emerged to address issues with large layer-2 networks. Protocols such as Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL), Shortest Path Bridging (SPB), and Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) have emerged to address the need for scalability at Layer2.   Cloud scalability, spanning tree bridging issues, and big broadcast networks start to become a problem in a large data center or cloud environment.

To figure out if things like TRILL is a solution for you, you must understand the problem that is being addressed by TRILL. The same goes for the rest of the mentioned protocols. When it boils down to it the reason for looking at such protocols is you want high switching capacity, low latency, and redundancy.  The current de facto standard of Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) simply is unable to meet the needs of modern layer2 networks.  TRILL addresses the problem of STP’s ability to only allow one network path between switches or ports.  STP prevents loops by managing active layer -2 paths.   TRILL applies Intermediate System-to-Intermediate System protocol (IS-IS), which is a layer3 routing protocol translated to Layer 2 devices.

For those who say TRILL is not the answer things like SPB also known as 802.1aq, and VXLAN are the alternatives. A presentation at NANOG 50 in 2010 addressed some of the SPB vs TRILL debate. This presentation goes into great detail on the differences between the two.

The problem, which is one most folks overlook, is that you can only make a layer 2 network so flat.  The trend for a while, especially in data centers, is to flatten out the network. Is TRILL better? Is SPB better? The problem isn’t what is the better solution to use.  What needs to be addressed is the design philosophy behind why you need to use such things.   Having large Layer2 networks is generally a bad idea. Scaling issues can almost always be solved by Layer-3.

So, and this is where the philosophy starts, is TRILL, SPB, or even VXLAN for you? Yes, but with a very big asterisk. TRILL is one of those stop-gap measures or one of those targeted things to use in specific instances. TRILL reduces complexity and makes layer-2 more robust when compared to MLAG. Where would you use such things? One common decision of whether to use TRILL or not comes in a virtualized environment such as VSPHERE.

Many vendors such as Juniper, have developed their own solutions to such things.  Juniper and their Virtual Chassis solution do away with spanning tree issues, which is what TRILL addresses.   Cisco has FabricPath, which is Cisco’s proprietary TRILL-based solution. Keep in mind, this is still TRILL.   If you want to learn some more about Fabric Path this article by Joel Knight gets to the heart of Fabric path.

Many networks see VXLAN as their upgrade path.  VXLAN allows layer 2 to be stretched across layer 3 boundaries. If you are a “Microsoft person” you probably hear an awful lot about Network Virtualization using Generic Routing Encapsulation (NVGRE) which can encapsulate a layer two frame into IP.

The last thing to consider in this entire debate is how does Software Defined Networking (SDN) play into this. Many folks think controllers will make ECMP and MLAG easy to create and maintain. If centralized controllers have a complete view of the network there is no longer a need to run protocols such as TRILL.   The individual switch no longer makes the decision, the controller does.

Should you use Trill, VXLAN, or any of the others mentioned? If you have a large Layer-2 virtualized environment it might be something to consider.  Are you an ISP, there is a very small case for running TRILL in anything other than your data center. Things such as Carrier Ethernet and MPLS are the way to go.

5.8 Cambium Elevated Devices & Max EIRP

Lately, we have had a few clients run into signals becoming worse when they elevated clients to ePMP.   This is not a result of the software being bad, but it enforcing the max EIRP on the units.  This boils down to older devices compliant with original FCC grants which allowed unlimited EIRP.  The Cambium elevate recognizes the latest grant for the devices.  This grant allows for a max of 41 dBM on 5/10/20 mhz channels and 38dBM on 40mhz.

So if you have elevated some older devices from UBNT your signals may have dropped.  This is due to compliance with the latest rules for the device.   As our industry matures, becoming compliant will become more and more important.  On the UBNT units, newer firmware from UBNT also does this.

Cambium has a forum post on this.

We have some tricks of the trade we can do. Contact MTIN for how we can help.

Vendors and core business

I had a client learn a lesson they should not have had to this evening.  The client has had several key servers hosted at a small data center for several years now. These were managed servers the data center took care of. Things like new hard drives were the responsibility of the data center so the client rarely paid attention to these machines.  As many of you know a server can spin for years and it is just forgotten about.

Tonight these servers come under a very heavy Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.  Fifteen plus Gigs come to bear at client’s servers for an extended time.  The client is unable to reach the data center NOC, nor do any of his contacts work.   The servers are knocked offline.  4 hours later the client finally receives an e-mail from the data center saying they unplugged the client’s router because it was taking down their (the DC’s) own network.  After asking to have a call from a manager client finds out the DC has restructured and dropped many of their co-location and other hosting services.  Their multiple 10 gig pipes have been reduced to one, and many clients have left.  The manager says they have re-focused their business to focus on things such as OLED screens, and other things totally unrelated to running a data center. The hosting they do have left “pays the bills” so they can have a place to do research.

The client has redundancy so they are not dead in the water.  However, this redundancy was only supposed to be for a short term duration due to costs.  The lesson learned is to keep in contact with your vital members.  Call up your sales person once or twice a year and see how things are going.  Keep in contact with key folks at the company.  If they are on LinkedIn add the company.  If their focus appears to change or they go silent do some leg work to find out what’s going on.

Technology and our lives

I saw two very different examples of how technology affects families today. The first was a very positive experience with my wife’s parents. Their satellite dish had become out of alignment. Amber and I were able to go over in the morning and quickly do some adjustments on the dish outside and get their TV service restored. As a result, we were able to have a nice lunch with them and sit and visit for a little bit. For the techies Reading this, it was just a simple alignment problem and a couple loose bolts and some turning of the alignment bolts brought it back in line. It’s the same thing we do all the time with wireless microwave backhauls.

The other example was a Family down the street. As I was driving home I passed their house and noticed probably ten of them were outside having a cookout. However, as I got closer to the House I noticed every single one of them at their heads down looking at their phones. No one was talking with each other.  Maybe they were IMing each other, who knows.

Just some recent observations.