One of the more common questions at #WISPAPALOOZA2018 was how to do funding your for WISP. One of our partner companies is Ritalia Fundiing
Are you an ISP wanting to know security scans of your network? MTIN now has some options to keep your network secure. Contact us for scans on your network to look for open ports and other vulnerabilities on your network that could be exploited.
MTIN also offers server checkup services.
The topic of paying per user for a billing or management platforms comes up every so often. I was able to sit down and talk with several vendors at WISPAPALOOZA this year about the value of their customers paying a per-user fee.
The most prevalent thought is about innovation and new features. SaaS allows the billing vendor to invest development and testing time in rolling out new features to support new equipment, and other software. LTE platforms are the hot thing in billing integration. New additions to software take people power and hours of testing and tweaking. Without monthly recurring revenue to drive such things billing vendors would have to develop this and then charge to the early adopters as an add-on. This can be a double-edged sword. The early adopters have to pay a premium in order to get a partial solution because the vendor has to really prioritize how their development resources are used. The Vendor is always chasing the next big thing, which means other additions or fixes tend to get pushed back. They have to finish add-ons they think more folks will want to buy first.
The next thing is plain old hosting. Hosting a software application, whether in the cloud or on your own hardware costs money. Co-location, software patches on the OS, hardware lifecycles, etc. This cuts down on the end-user maintenance side of the hardware but pushes it back to the vendor. The peace of mind of knowing the thing that collects your money is running is backed up, and is available as part of the monthly fee you pay.
SaaS also allows for quicker releases of bugs and new features. Vendors have more resources dedicated to development and changes. This allows for new add-ons to become available quicker. Take the traditional model where you get bug fixes, but major feature add-ons are either a full point upgrade or major version upgrade. This usually costs money and is a slower process. Not only does the vendor have to spend resources advertising, but they have to deal with support and other issues. With billing vendors who charge a monthly fee fixes from companies such as Paypal or Authorize.net are almost always rolled out very quickly at no additional charge to the end user ISP.
Some companies such as Basecamp, which is not a billing platform, have taken a hybrid approach to SaaS. Every major revision that comes out is an upgrade. You can choose to upgrade or stay where you are and pay the same amount. This can leave customers behind but still allows them to use what they are paying for. They just don’t get new features or bug fixes.
So the next time you are figuring out why you should pay for a billing platform on a monthly, customer, or subscription basis take all of this into account.
For those looking for xISP billing, and mainly WISP billing, here is a partial list:
If you have more please add them in the comments.
Many ISPs run into this problem as part of their growing pains. This scenario usually starts happening with their third or 4th peer.
Scenario. ISP grows beyond the single connection they have. This can be 10 meg, 100 meg, gig or whatever. They start out looking for redundancy. The ISP brings in a second provider, usually at around the same bandwidth level. This way the network has two pretty equal paths to go out.
A unique problem usually develops as the network grows to the point of peaking the capacity of both of these connections. The ISP has to make a decision. Do they increase the capacity to just one provider? Most don’t have the budget to increase capacities to both providers. Now, if you increase one you are favouring one provider over another until the budget allows you to increase capacity on both. You are essentially in a state where you have to favor one provider in order to keep up capacity. If you fail over to the smaller pipe things could be just as bad as being down.
This is where many ISPs learn the hard way that BGP is not load balancing. But what about padding, communities, local-pref, and all that jazz? We will get to that. In the meantime, our ISP may have the opportunity to get to an Internet Exchange (IX) and offload things like streaming traffic. Traffic returns to a little more balance because you essentially have a 3rd provider with the IX connection. But, they growing pains don’t stop there.
As ISP’s, especially WISPs, have more and more resources to deal with cutting down latency they start seeking out better-peered networks. The next growing pain that becomes apparent is the networks with lots of high-end peers tend to charge more money. In order for the ISP to buy bandwidth they usually have to do it in smaller quantities from these types of providers. This introduces the probably of a mismatched pipe size again with a twist. The twist is the more, and better peers a network has the more traffic is going to want to travel to that peer. So, the more expensive peer, which you are probably buying less of, now wants to handle more of your traffic.
So, the network geeks will bring up things like padding, communities, local-pref, and all the tricks BGP has. But, at the end of the day, BGP is not load balancing. You can *influence* traffic, but BGP does not allow you to say “I want 100 megs of traffic here, and 500 megs here.” Keep in mind BGP deals with traffic to and from IP blocks, not the traffic itself.
So, how does the ISP solve this? Knowing about your upstream peers is the first thing. BGP looking glasses, peer reports such as those from Hurricane Electric, and general news help keep you on top of things. Things such as new peering points, acquisitions, and new data centers can influence an ISPs traffic. If your equipment supports things such as netflow, sflow, and other tools you can begin to build a picture of your traffic and what ASNs it is going to. This is your first major step. Get tools to know what ASNs the traffic is going to You can then take this data, and look at how your own peers are connected with these ASNs. You will start to see things like provider A is poorly peered with ASN 2906.
Once you know who your peers are and have a good feel on their peering then you can influence your traffic. If you know you don’t want to send traffic destined for ASN 2906 in or out provider A you can then start to implement AS padding and all the tricks we mentioned before. But, you need the greater picture before you can do that.
One last note. Peering is dynamic. You have to keep on top of the ecosystem as a whole.
A relevant F.A.Q. can be found at https://www.copyright.gov/dmca-directory/faq.html
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) provides safe harbors from copyright infringement liability for online service providers. In order to qualify for safe harbor protection, certain kinds of service providers—for example, those that allow users to post or store material on their systems, and search engines, directories, and other information location tools— must designate an agent to receive notifications of claimed copyright infringement. To designate an agent, a service provider must do two things: (1) make certain contact information for the agent available to the public on its website; and (2) provide the same information to the Copyright Office, which maintains a centralized online directory of designated agent contact information for public use. The service provider must also ensure that this information is up to date.
In December 2016, the Office introduced an online registration system and electronically generated directory to replace the Office’s old paper-based system and directory. Accordingly, the Office no longer accepts paper designations. To designate an agent, a service provider must register with and use the Office’s online system.
Transition period: Any service provider that has designated an agent with the Office prior to December 1, 2016, in order to maintain an active designation with the Office, must submit a new designation electronically using the online registration system by December 31, 2017. Any designation not made through the online registration system will expire and become invalid after December 31, 2017. Until then, the Copyright Office will maintain two directories of designated agents: the directory consisting of paper designations made pursuant to the Office’s prior interim regulations which were in effect between November 3, 1998 and November 30, 2016 (the “old directory”), and the directory consisting of designations made electronically through the online registration system (the “new directory”). During the transition period, a compliant designation in either the old directory or the new directory will satisfy the service provider’s obligation under section 512(c)(2) to designate an agent with the Copyright Office. During the transition period, to search for a service provider’s most up-to-date designation, begin by using the new directory. The old directory should only be consulted if a service provider has not yet designated an agent in the new directory.
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.
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.
One of the most asked questions which comes up in the xISP world is “How do I learn this stuff?”. Depending on who you ask this could be a lengthy answer or a simple one sentence answer. Before we answer the question, let’s dive into why the answer is complicated.
In many enterprise environments, there is usually pretty standard deployment of networking hardware. Typically this is from a certain vendor. There are many factors involved. in why this is. The first is total Cost of Ownership (TCO). It almost always costs less to support one product than to support multiples. Things like staff training are usually a big factor. If you are running Cisco it’s cheaper to train and keep updated on just Cisco rather than Cisco and another vendor.
Another factor involved is economies of scale. Buying all your gear from a certain vendor allows you to leverage buying power. Quantity discounts in other words. You can commit to buying product over time or all at once.
So, to answer this question in simple terms. If your network runs Mikrotik, go to a Mikrotik training course. If you run Ubiquiti go to a Ubiquiti training class.
Now that the simple question has been answered, let’s move on to the complicated, and typically the real world answer and scenario. Many of our xISP clients have gear from several vendors deployed. They may have several different kinds of Wireless systems, a switch solution, a router solution, and different pieces in-between. So where does a person start?
We recommend the following path. You can tweak this a little based on your learning style, skill level, and the gear you want to learn.
1.Start with the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification in Routing and Switching (R&S). There are a ton of ways to study for this certification. There are Bootcamps (not a huge fan of these for learning), iPhone and Android Apps (again these are more focused on getting the cert), online, books, and even youtube videos. Through the process of studying for this certification, you will learn many things which will carry over to any vendor. Things like subnetting, differences between broadcast and collision domains, and even some IPV6 in the newest tracks. During the course of studying you will learn, and then reinforce that through practice tests and such. Don’t necessarily focus on the goal of passing the test, focus on the content of the material. I used to work with a guy who went into every test with the goal of passing at 100%. This meant he had to know the material. CompTIA is a side path to the Cisco CCNA. For reasons explained later, COMPTIA Network+ doesn’t necessarily work into my plan, especially when it comes to #3. I would recommend COMPTIA if you have never taken a certification test before.
2.Once you have the CCNA under your belt, take a course in a vendor you will be working the most with. At the end of this article, I am going to add links to some of the popular vendor certifications and then 3rd party folks who teach classes. One of the advantages of a 3rd party teacher is they are able to apply this to your real world needs. If you are running Mikrotik, take a class in that. Let the certification be a by-product of that class.
3.Once you have completed #1 and #2 under your belt go back to Cisco for their Cisco Certifed Design Associate (CCDA). This is a very crucial step those on a learning path overlook. Think of your networking knowledge as your end goal is to be able to build a house. Steps one and two have given you general knowledge, you can now use tools, do some basic configuration. But you can’t build a house without knowing what is involved in designing foundations, what materials you need to use, how to compact the soil, etc. Network design is no different. These are not things you can read in a manual on how to use the tool. They also are not tool specific. Some of the things in the Cisco CCDA will be specific to Cisco, but overall it is a general learning track. Just follow my philosophy in relationship to #1. Focus on the material.
Once you have all of this under your belt look into pulling in pieces of other knowledge. Understanding what is going on is a key to your success. If you understand what goes on with an IP packet, learning tools like Wireshark will be easier. As you progress let things grow organically from this point. Adding equipment in from a Vendor? Update your knowledge or press the new vendor for training options. Branch out into some other areas ,such as security, to add to your overall understanding.
Never stop learning! Visit our online store for links to recommend books and products.
WISP Based Traning Folks.
These companies and individuals provide WISP based training. Some of it is vendor focused. Some are not. My advice is to ask questions. See if they are a fit for what your goals are.
If you provide training let me know and I will add you to this list.