From the archives – Evolution of a network guy part 2

Being hired as a tech support tech at tctc.com would forever change my life.  It was like being shown who was behind the curtain.  All of a sudden this world of T1 lines, modem banks, and DNS servers was before me.  I couldn’t soak up enough of it.  It was here I met some of the best people I have known in my life.  Guys like Robg, Robr, John “Land”, and Jimbo.  We became a sort of dysfunctional family.  We were at the head of the wave as the Internet and personal computing exploded. We were truly among a very small group of people doing technical support for an ever-growing ISP.  During that time businesses did not have I.T. departments, there were very few consultants, and very few people had done any of this before.  We were being looked to because we were the closest anyone had to experts.   This caused us to be on the leading edge of the World Wide Web boom.  Our close-knit group became close because no one else knew what we were talking about.  All of us looked at what we were doing as more than a job.  It was a lifestyle.   Like anything in life, things change.  The small telephone company was sold to TDS Telecom and I saw the writing on the wall.  The culture we had developed was coming to an end.

Shortly after leaving TCTC.com I stated my own dial-up ISP on a shoestring budget.  My dad was one of my biggest supporters in this venture.  Without him I never would have been able to do it.    Sadly I lost my father in 2001.  This meant we needed the extra income to survive.  I applied for a job at Lafayette School Corporation as a Macintosh Specialist.  Here I meant some people such as Eric Thiel.  Eric is the Zen Master of the computer world.  From Eric I learned the ability to relax when it came to solving technology problems.  My term at LSC was similar to the culture at TCTC.  We were a small group on the cutting edge of integrating technology into the day to day operations of the teachers.  Things others take for granted were new at that time.  Using PDAs with wireless cards to take attendance, implementing Gigabit Ethernet, and PC automation were some of the fun things we were doing.   It was during this time I learned a lot on how I wanted my professional life to be.  I was working for a Boss who had serious issues.  He would what I would consider your “typical I.T. stereotype”. He made my life miserable.  Part of it was me seeing the wasted potential in myself. It was here I knew the ISP business was my true calling.

At the same time I was at LSC, my ISP business (MTIN.NET), was branching out into being one of the first Wireless Internet Service Providers in the area.  We hung our first piece of wireless gear around 2003.  I never had enough money to truly expand like I wanted to.  During this time I met Amber.  Amber was the best thing to ever happen to me. Quickly she became a true partner in everything we were doing.  She was spending her weekends helping me keep everything together.  Our typical weekend would be me on a grain leg installing or trying to keep equipment up with her at the bottom plugging in stuff.  We were both working full-time jobs and trying to make a go of the ISP.  Many days I would get home from my 9-5 job and be working on MTIN things until 11 or 12.  The next day would be a full repeat of that.  MTIN did computer repair as well as the ISP thing.  The computer repair business kept the lights on, but also further showed me the ISP side of things is what my true calling was.

When another WISP came into the area it was time for myself and MTIN to morph yet again.  That’s where meeting Steve Narducci changed it all….

 

Continued in Part 3

Thoughts on carrier redundnacy

Recently there have been discussions on some lists about carrier redundancy.  I figured I would sum up some thoughts and add my own,

In today’s world of consolidation, takeovers, and cost saving measures carrier redundancy is something one should pursue with due diligence.  Below are some questions to know about your existing provider and any future providers. If you know this you can compare the differences between two providers.  By knowing the answer to these questions you can add two carriers which will complement each other.

1.Where does my circuit go when it leaves my equipment? Look at this from a regional perspective.  Where does it travel in the city? Where does it travel to the next city?

2.Does the provider’s lines share conduit with other providers?  They might not know this, but if you have two providers you can compare routes.  If they are in the same conduit or in separate conduit in the same trench that might not be ideal.  A backhoe could take both out. Do they share space inside the path with other carriers as well? If so, this could cause issues with contract disputes, not paying bills, and other business-related functions.  Imagine if carrier A is sharing conduit with Carrier B. Carrier A goes out of business and holds the conduit contract.  Where does that leave Carrie rB?

3.Where is the entry point to the facility for the provider’s circuits? If both come into the same part of the building this could be a potential weak point.  Ideally one would enter from the north (or south or whatever) and the other would enter from a different direction.  Also, they would travel up different conduits on different sides of the building.  This way if something like a car crashes through the building may be one of them will be protected.

4.Does the provider farm any of your circuit out to a 3rd party?  This is good to know when problems arise and the finger pointing begins.

 

5.Use tools such as a “Looking Glass” to see if there are differences in routes.  If you have two backbone providers and they have very similar routes to reach the major sites (ie. Google, Yahoo, etc.) then you could open yourself up for problems with latency and packet loss should those paths become congested of fail.  Ideally, you want ProviderA to have different routes than ProviderB.  This way if something outside their network is causing issues it won’t have as big of an impact on your network.   Think of this as a road.  You might have two roads leaving your town, but you don’t want both of those roads taking the same path to get to the outside world.

 

Also look at this from your own equipment perspective. If you terminate all your circuits on a single router you are dependent on that router. Same goes for anything.  If everything comes in over the same ladder racks that are a point of failure.   If all your equipment is in the same room that is a point of failure.

Redundancy can be as diverse as you want to. It boils down to mitigating the risk.  If you know all the risks you can say “Yeah I am willing to bring my cross connects over a single ladder rack because the likely-hood of that rack failing is a risk I will take.”

 

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From the Archives – Evolution of a network guy Part 1

I published this several years ago, and was lost on a previous blog.  I found it while archiving things tonight and figured it was time to re-post and update in the end.

My buddy Greg Sowell recently wrote an article on his Blog about the “evolution of an I.T. guy.  It was on of the best articles I have read in a long time.  It inspired me to write this article. I am thinking this will probably be a 3 or 4 part article on my history in the computer/I.T. field.

My mom bought me my first computer, a Texas Instruments TI-994a when I was about 7 years old.  We had very little money but she managed to get her hands on one. I had a game called Parsec which I would play for hours on a small black and white tv screen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZgFAgmJkiE .  Her and I would spend hours taking turns on this game.  Those times are one of my most cherished memories I have.

From there I graduated to a Commodore 64.  My best Friend Shawn Hackett and I would spend hours drooling over the newest games at Hills department store.  We would also spend hours copying games from other people and users groups.  During that time 5 ¼” floppy disks would be passed around user groups to trade games between the members.  Games like Druid, Wasteland, Whirlybird, and Jet Set Willy would have an immense influence on our young lives.  To this day they were so much a part we still joke about the humor and enjoyment we received from the games.

The commodore would stick with us until around 1992-93.  This is the time I received my driver’s license.  One night I was on Purdue campus just exploring around and came across a computer lab.  No one questioned my being there so I just sat down at an Apple Macintosh. On the desktop was an icon labeled Netscape Navigator 1.0beta.  Little did I know clicking on that icon was a life changing experience.  In front of me popped up something called a search engine.  I started typing in things I was interested in.  Anything from Star Trek to weapons to cars.  I remember sitting there that first night for hours seeing all this information at my fingertips.  I would spend all my free time going to that computer lab. I would spend my time printing off tons of things and taking them home to read.  This was one of those moments in life where you reach a higher level of consciousness.  When I actually enrolled at Purdue I was able to gain several “shell accounts”.  This opened up the doors to things like ytalk, html coding,  and shell scripts.  All of my free time was still spent in the ever-changing computer labs in the basements of various buildings.

It was during this time my dad helped me buy my first Apple Performa.  It was running Macintosh OS 7.0 and had a 14.4 baud modem.  I immediately signed up for tctc.com dial-up Internet.  I was one of their first Macintosh users which expanded my understanding because I had to do things very few others were doing.  It was during this time I found the world of IRC.  This chat system spawned many long lasting friendships I still have to this today.

One day I saw a posting for a job opening at TCTC.  Little did I know this was about to change my entire life…

Stay Tuned for Part 2

Bandwidth and the WISP

This was an older article I had on my blog a few years ago.  Much of this applies still.

Bandwidth is a big hurdle most aspiring WISPs face. The reason is if high-speed alternatives were already in place, the need for a WISP would not be as great.  Sure there are business models in which the WISP can compete with other high-speed solutions. However, the bread and butter of a WISP is going into underserved areas.

You have several options for bringing a connection into your area to re-distribute to your customers. I will outline these and then go into further detail

-Leased Lines (Fractional, T-1, T3, etc.)
-Fiber Optic
-Wireless backhaul
-Cable
-DSL

Leased Lines are the most easily accessible across the United States. However, as more and more providers build fiber it is taking over as the preferred method of connectivity.  Fiber is more “future proof” than a T-Carrier circuit such as a T1 or T3.   Most phone companies can provide t1 service to almost anywhere. This is because T1 service uses the existing copper already at 99% of locations. If you have a phone line you can almost always get t1 service.  Once you go beyond T1 things get a little more complicated.  However, T1 has the ability to do bonding if the carrier and telco support it.  You essentially buy multiple T1s and combine them into a single “pipe”.  This requires the provider to support bonding as well as some special configuration on your routers.

Some questions you should ask your provider/telco.

1.Where is my circuit “homed out of”? This means where does the circuit terminate on the facility end.  You do not want this to be too far. If it is too far your reliability will suffer because you have more distance and equipment to go through.  This raises the likelihood of an equipment failure, backhoe digging something up, & utility poles falling.  The longer the distance also means the “loop charge” will most likely increase.   We will get to that in a moment.

2.There are several types of T1s for our purposes.  Some terms to familiarize oneself with are PRI, channelized, transport, and port fee.

3. Ask your provider to spell out what type of t1 this is.  If you are buying the T1 from a backbone provider such as Qwest, Level3, and others they will typically bundle everything into one package. Ask them to break this down if they don’t.  You want to know what the Local loop charge is, what the port fee is, and what the bandwidth costs.  The local loop is typically what the telephone company charges to deliver the circuit from Point A (their equipment) to Point B (you).  If you are going with a 3rd party, and not the local telephone company, the provider typically becomes the central point of contact for the entire circuit.  This can add a level of complexity when issues arise.

The port fee is a charge normally passed on for connecting to the provider’s equipment.  Say you have a 48 port switch sitting in a CO-Location facility.   For each Ethernet cable you plug in from the telephone company they charge a fee either one-time and/or monthly.  This is just the way it is typically.  One of those “Because they can” charges.  The 3rd charge is the cost of the Internet bandwidth.  A T1 can handle 1.5 Megabits of bandwidth so the cost per Megabit is not as big of an issue because you are not buying in bulk.

4.Ask to see the Service Level Agreement (SLA). If you are unfamiliar with the terms have a consultant look this over.

5.Know where your DMARC location is. This is the spot where the provider’s responsibility ends and yours begins.

6.Ask if the provider can verify with the telco how long the next circuit would take to install. You don’t want to go to order a second circuit and find out the local telephone equipment does not have enough capacity.  This has happened to our clients on many occasions.  This can be a quick process or the telco can take months and months to get around to installing the needed equipment.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demarcation_point

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-carrier

Hangers to help with PIM

Are you running Telrad or Baicells? Need a solution to get every bit you can out of the system? Don’t forget your hangers can influence pim .

Traditional hangers and diameter-specific grommet combinations complicate installations, making it difficult to secure cables from wind and vibration, which can cause passive intermodulation (PIM) problems. 

Check out PIM hangers from Tessco.

The new age of case studies

After the recent filing of Ubiquiti vs Cambium, Winncom, and BLIP networks the question of case studies has come up.  One of the pieces of complaints is a case study Blip Networks did on Cambium Elevate.

What changes do you think will be forthcoming in future case studies? Should end users who do the case study require more terms from the manufacturer they are doing the case study to protect themselves? Are we going to see actual legal documents for any case studies to be done? Or are companies just not going to want to do case studies for fear of opening themselves up for retaliation?

I am interested to know your thoughts.

ALG Antenna test vs Jirous dishes

The following are results from a series of tests of AGLcom’s parabolic dish antennas on an existing link that is 5.7 miles long. The link typically passes 80-90Mbs with a TX capacity of 140 Mbs and radios used are Ubiquiti AF5X operating at 5218 Mhz.  A full PDF with better Readability can be downloaded here..

The tests were taken in stages:

  1. 1)  The normal performance of the link was recorded.
  2. 2)  The 2′ dish at one end, B, was replaced with the AGLcom, C, dish and the link reestablished.The link performance was recorded.
  3. 3)  The 2′ dish at the other end, A, was replaced with the AGLcom, D, dish and the link reestablished. The link performance was recorded.
  4. 4)  The setting on the AF5xs were adjusted to optimize the link performance with data recorded.
  5. 5)  The 2′ dish, B was put back in the link and the performance was recorded.
  6. 6)  The ACLcom C was put back into place.

The tables below do not follow the test order as the third line of data was actually the last test performed.

Antennas:

A-Jirous JRC-29EX MIMO
B-Jirous JRC-29EX MIMO C-AGLcom – PS-6100-30-06-DP D-AGLcom – PS-6100-29-06-DP-UHP

Results:

Table 1 is the signal strength results of the various dishes on the link. The first line, A-B, is the original Jirous to Jirous. A is the first two columns of the link and are the A side and the last two columns are the B side on the link. What is of interest is that exchanging B to C in the second line brought the signal deviation between the channels to only 1db and 0 db as seen in Table 2. The third line was a result of replacing the horn on the A dish and optimizing the setting on the AF5X radios. This changed the signal by around 7db and improved the link capacity, Table 3. Clearly, the A dish had a problem with the original horn.

In the fourth line, D-B, the signal strength improved as well at the signal deviation on the two channels, Table 2 first two columns. This link was not optimized. The fifth line, D-C is both AGLcom dishes which improved the bandwidth, Table 3, and the signal deviations, Table 2. The final line, D-C, was the previous line optimized. The signal strengths moved closer together and the bandwidth improved.

Link Ch0 Ch1 Ch0 Ch1

  1. A-B  -73 -76
  2. A-C  -73 -74

A*-C -64 -66

  1. D-B  -63 -62
  2. D-C  -62 -62

D*-C -60 -60

-70 -74 -71 -71 -65 -66 -59 -59 -58 -58 -61 -61

Signal Strength (* optimized data) Table 1

Table 2 has four data columns, the first two being the measured results and the latter two being the measured difference from theory. The Jirous and AF5X calculators were used for the theory signals. Clearly the signal approached the theoritical limit with the optimization and with the change of dishes. The optimization improved the signal by ~9db for the link that we replaced the horn on the Jirous and by ~2db for the AGLcom link.

Link dSig dSig A-B 3 4 A-C 1 0 A*-C 2 1 D-B -1 0 D-C 0 0 D*-C 0 0

dSig dSig -16.5 -17.4 -17.0 -15.0 -8.0 -9.0 -13.3 -5.3 -7.0 -4.3 -5.0 -6.0

Signal strength variation from theory Table 2

The band width improvement was more obvious, Table 3, from 22 Mbs to 39 Mbs for the RX and 144 Mbs to 141 Mbs TX for the link with the horn replacement. The bandwidth improvement for the optimization of the AGLcom link was from 61Mbs to 66Mbs RX and from 211Mbs to 267Mbs for TX.

The bandwidth improvement from the original, optimized link to the AGLcom link is from 61Mbs RX to 67Mbs and from 210Mbs TX to 267Mbs. There is a clear improvement for the AGLcom link over the Jirous link.

Link BW-RX

  1. A-B  22.5
  2. A-C  39.0

A*-C 60.9

  1. D-B  61.4
  2. D-C  60.6

D*-C 66.6

BW-TX 144.6 141.4 210.0 211.0 215.0 267.6

Table 3

Conclusions:

The data supports a measurable improvement in both signal strength and bandwidth with the use of the AGLcom dishes. However, it is difficult to quantify the improvement. The Jirous dishes were identical whereas the AGLcom dishes were not. One of the jirous dishes was under performing initially but was repaired for the last tests. Additional testing is needed to provide accurate data analysis and performance comparison. The best performance tests would involve identical AGLcom dishes, ideally two links, one each of both types of dishes.