Engineer engineering voip

Self Learning Control Layer in VoIP Networks

Taking Control of Your Network – The Self Learning Control Layer

The development and implementation of telecommunications networks and services has traditionally been a long drawn out affair. Even the smallest project might have an 18 month gestation period. Major network roll outs much longer. The advent of API driven environments provides us with the opportunity to change all this and here I discuss the concept of the Self Learning Control Layer (SLCL). The SLCL is an intelligent overlays  to VoIP networks driving efficiency, reducing costs and making it easier to add new products and services.

Self Learning Control Layer Building Blocks

An SLCL has three building blocks:

  • Data Mining,
  • Call Control &
  • Orchestration.

Data mining is used to monitor activity and health in a network. Call Control is used to effect change to traffic routing based on information provided by the Data Mining and Orchestration. Orchestration makes provisioning decisions based on predefined policy, inputs from both the network and from end users.

The types of learning the network might make include:

  • addition of capacity to or traffic rerouting away from congested areas – eg based on MOS scores
  • automatic shut off of calls considered to be fraudulent traffic
  • Routing policies altered by a change in an user’s status (eg from “business” mode to “personal”) or the provisioning of additional capacity based on the addition of new users to a network.

The SLCL is designed to make your network easier and cheaper to operate to make your customers happier. Being API based it also makes it easy to integrate with your existing network infrastructure. The SLCL is a concept developed by Netaxis who provide all the building blocks you need to implement it.

I’ve already discussed elements of the SLCL in my posts and workshops on VoIP Network Monitoring, fraud detection and call simulation.

Session Routing Engines

My next focus is going  to be on Session Routing Engines. The SRE is a key component of the SLCL and is the heart of the Call Control function.

Essential features include:

  • APIs to standard network elements such as softswitches, Session Border Controllers, VoLTE and IMS and indeed other existing Core Routing Engines
  • SIP & ENUM
  • Be flexible and easy to implement

The SRE is the subject matter of my next working lunch which is in London on Wednesday 3rd May. At this event we have a special guest, Laurent Debacker of Belgian telco Voo who is going to talk us through their own implementation of the SRE and act as a catalyst for a general discussion around this subject.

You can check out details of the event here. It’s free to come to but you have to be a VOIP network geek for it to be worthwhile for all attendees – we want an active discussion on this subject and places are limited.

Business engineering internet

Cisco v Arista

Cisco Arista court case gets judgement

Cisco Arista court case gets judgement in favour of Cisco.  Quite an interesting spat going on in the big wide world of internet plumbing and routing at the moment. Cisco are suing Arista for patent infringement and have been given a judgement in their favour.

Now it seems to be the norm for big companies to go about suing each other these days: witness the long running Apple v Samsung saga, or Samsung v Apple – take your pick. This is no change to the status quo really. Many years ago when I was in the semiconductor business I once got a letter (yes letter) from AT&T or some similar long established telecoms giant saying that we were infringing a patent of theirs. We were using a CMOS process and they assumed that because of this we were using technology that they had patented.

They probably sent them out to every semiconductor manufacturer fishing for a response that they could grab hold of and drill deeper. I threw the letter in the bin and heard no more of it.

AT&T had a revenue generating department that specialised in doing this sort of thing – their patent portfolio was huge.

Nowadays the stakes are very high. Cisco are still market leaders (ref Gartner Magic Quadrant – Who’s Leading The Data Center Networking Market) but Arista are the fastest growing and together with Cisco hailed as leaders.

There are three reference points in respect of this court case:

  1. Cisco’s Mark Chandler (SVP, General Counsel and Secretary General Counsel) in a blog post on protecting innovation naturally takes the line that “copying and misappropriation are not a legitimate strategy”.
  2. Arista founder and CTO Kenneth Duda obviously has his own views here.His blog post entitled Protecting IP or Market Share?  is well worth a read.
  3. The third reference point, apart from the judgement itself is the online outcry from the internet engineering community. The feeling is that there is prior art that covers the meat of what Cisco are claiming as their own patented technology. There is also a sense that the patent authorities do not have sufficient expertise to vet a patent application and that we have to wait for expensive law suits to prove prior art.

Now there’s no way I’m going to get involved in this discussion (apart from the fact that I sort of already have here) other than to say that the only people who will do well out of this will be the lawyers – how much did that blog post cost Cisco? I doubt that it will make any difference to anything in the great scheme of things.

Note when we talk about data center market share we are talking about the core of the internet.

Engineer engineering internet

UKNOF33 – live action from the conference room floor

UKNOF33 is happening today at Bishopsgate deep in the heart of the City of London

UKNOF33 returns once more to Bishopsgate. It feels a bit odd for what are obviously great bunch of guys and gals, famed for their altruism and generous heartedness to be holding a conference deep in the heart of the financial centre of London – a place known for its single minded pursuit of the filthy lucre purely for the sake of it and (allegedly) at the expense of all moral consciousness. That isn’t to say your average network engineer isn’t interested in the green stuff but we do like to think that we perform a good public service as part of the deal.

Nothwithstanding the location, which due to the growth of the conference is one of the few places able to hold all the people wanting to come, UKNOF continues to be one ofthe most worthwhile meetings in the networking calendar.

These UKNOF posts, in line with other conference posts, aren’t necessarily going to cover the presentations verbatim. You can download the slides if that’s what interests you. No, in these posts you get whatever catches my eye. This might be corridor gossip, interesting (editor’s judgement is final as to what constitute interesting) snippets from the talks, or just photos of things that catch my eye.

Feel free to share, comment and generally participate, if you want to. Otherwise it’s good to be back 🙂

If yer interested check out our other UKNOF posts.

Engineer engineering internet

UKNOF32 Sheffield Day 2

UKNOF32 Sheffield Day 2

Engineer engineering

Experiences as a Siemens IT graduate

Siemens IT graduate –  my career experiences so far…

On October 1st 2014 I embarked on the first step into my career in IT. After completing four years at the University of Lincoln and gaining a Masters degree I was lucky enough to be offered a place on Siemens IT Graduate Scheme. Congleton is the only Siemens site in the UK not to have an Atos controlled service desk. IT support is done internally by the IT team. Therefore, I am the only specific IT Graduate in the whole of Siemens UK. Little did I know the exposure to various IT systems that I would get within a month of starting!

The feeling of knowing that you have a position waiting for you does spur you on through the last few months of study. It also dawned on me then that I would be officially moving out of the family home and relocating to South Manchester. A few weeks of flat hunting and acquiring furniture wasn’t so bad.

The contracts finally came around mid June. It was becoming so much more real! I’d secured my flat and bought a bed so in my mind this was what ‘growing up’ was all about.

Then the day arrived that I was due to start work. It has to go down as one of the most nerve-racking days of my life. I remember walking into reception and the feeling of relief and drive came over me. The lady on reception already knew who I was – which I did find quite odd, and my ID badge was there waiting for me.

The first month went by so quickly. IT had had an office refit with posh new electronic desks and I’d begun to get to know people across the whole site and manufacturing areas.

My first main task was to do a massive data collection exercise to gather every item of software that was used across the Congleton site. The plan was to create a Service Catalogue of all the systems on site which IT didn’t currently have. Support, usage and a criticality level were all collected during this project. This ranged from Web Apps, Server Apps and Installed items. I also learnt a great deal more about the factory floor systems. All these systems have been developed internally over the years. Some are approaching 18 years old!

Not only did this project give me exposure to the site and its systems, it also allowed me to meet people. I visited every department and spoke to a few from each to collect the information that was needed.

As a part of the Graduate Programme, there are modules of work to be completed. We had an Orientation event at the end of October and then these modules kicked off in January. Each Graduate had to select dates for each of the 5 core modules – Project Management, Business Influencing, Customer Communications, Team Building and Career Planning.

These involved training courses which were set over a few days at other Siemens sites across the country. These modules are intended for us to understand the company and develop ourselves as young professionals. It was suggested that we kept a log book of these activities as well as reviewing each module with our line manager. I found the reviews really helpful as it enabled me to outline areas that I should work on in my day-to-day working.

It is now approaching 9 months since I started as a Siemens IT graduate in Congleton. I have completed one 6 month placement in Demand Management relating to applications and I am now working on the software roll-out of a specific data analytics software package with the Business Intelligence team. I have completed several items of work along the way: from becoming proficient in SharePoint development, using my previous knowledge of Agile to set up Sprint boards in the department and rolling out several items of software across site to improve communications.

I have almost completed a site wide cost saving exercise in fixed line telephony which has saved the site as a whole over £42,000 per year and I am due to start more cost saving initiatives in the coming months.

Even though I am very young in terms of career, I have achieved a lot since I have been here. I have also learnt that if you strive to develop yourself and search for opportunities that you will be looked after.

I’m part of the Strategy team promoting and ensuring our sustainability. I’m engaged in numerous school based activities promoting STEM subjects to Primary and soon in Secondary Schools. I’ve attended careers fairs across the country and even been back to my old University as a Siemens representative. It’s definitely been a great start to my Siemens journey.

So what’s next for me? I finish the first year of the graduate scheme in August, so I then have one year left. I am due to spend 4 months in Germany at a sister site early next year as well as participate and lead in a few new software projects in the various IT teams. 2016 is set to be an interesting year for me that’s for sure!

Zoe Redfern is an IT Graduate at the Siemens Digital Factory, Congleton, Cheshire.

Other posts in our women in tech week include:

Geeks do drink prosecco by Liz Fletcher
Network filter bypass solutions by Rhosyn Celyn
Network Automation by Leslie Parr
IX model defended by Valeria Rossi
Board level veteran sees progress by Lesley Hansen
Rural broadband solutions by Chris Conder

Business engineering

Veteran board level techie has seen some progress in her career

30 years in tech has seen some progress

When I was asked if I would like to contribute a blog item on Women in Tech I seriously wondered if I was the right person to do it.  You see I have never thought of myself as a Woman in Tech. I am simply a person doing a job I love in what I see as one of the most exciting industries around.

Before I got involved in IT and Telecoms the most technical position I had held was designing and selling photovoltaic system for electrical power at remote locations. I never really thought of it as a technological role at the time. Maybe that is one of the reasons for my success. Technology has never seems unobtainable to me, it has just seemed a challenge of the job and I have always loved challenges.

My sister was involved in technology and my father and both my brothers are engineers.  I suppose you could say technology was in our blood but I think rather that fear of technology was never taught to us. Maybe my parents were ahead of their time in never trying to teach us to conform to traditional roles.

Being educated in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Greece certainly did not give me a lot of strong female local role models. The wonderful thing about technology and engineering subjects in general is that they are for the most part logical and factual, and therefore in my humble opinion so much easier to deal with than the many shades of grey and public opinion that effects so many professions.

The IT and Telecoms industry is  demanding and fast moving and to succeed you need to be logical, organised and dedicated.  Above all you need to stay up to date which involves constant ongoing reading and discussions through networking groups. You can’t bluff it, if you are going to succeed you need to understand the industry and the technology.

I am aware that at the ripe age of 30 I achieved the distinction of becoming a Director and that over the following years I have continued to be one of the few women at board level, but I have always felt I could do the job, and I have certainly never felt that I achieved a position on anything but merit.

I do recall one position from which I resigned in disgust when I discovered that my male colleague was earning substantially more that I was for essentially the same work. I would have done the same if it had been a female colleague and I have never felt either discriminated against or held back by my sex. OK I recognise I have different personality characteristics from my, mostly male, counterparts but this has never seemed like an advantage or otherwise. It is just who we are.

30 years ago I did often find myself the only woman in the room. This was at first in meetings, then attending seminars or conferences and finally as my experience increased as the only women speaker at many industry events. But the people I met at these events whether as a delegate or as a speaker where not interested in me as a woman.  They were interested in what I knew or had to contribute and so everyone at the event started on an equal footing.

Over the years the number of women in the industry has steadily increased and I am delighted to have met some lovely women that I now count amongst my friends.

Technology is great, it is exciting, it is fun.  It is rarely boring and often challenging and in my experience you are respected for what you know and can do and for who you are. The IT and Telecoms industries are a wonderful place to work and I would, and have, encouraged any young person to get involved in a field that can be so rewarding.

Other posts in our women in tech week include:

Geeks do drink prosecco by Liz Fletcher
Network filter bypass solutions by Rhosyn Celyn
Network Automation by Leslie Parr
IX model defended by Valeria Rossi

Engineer engineering internet

Life in the network automated future

Network automation – yea baby

A long time ago, in Operations the world was very fragmented – web admins, sysadmins, database administrators.  Now most people at good companies are generalists. Tools allow you to administrate all of the different programs in the same way.  Specialists still exist, but for most day to day operations, specialists are unnecessary.

On the other side, traditional network engineers are in a world all on their own.  Networking companies try to push this mindset, through interfaces and designs that de-emphasize interoperability and certification tracks which emphasize knowledge in single-vendor environments.  Once someone has spent years and thousands of dollars on studying for their CCIE, there is a huge barrier to changing technologies and mindsets.  The emphasis on certifications is just another way to reinforce the idea that network engineers are special and need to be held to a different standard.

We must learn from the Operations DevOps world.  DevOps encourages the use of tools, quick turnover cycles, and intercommunication between teams in order to lower errors while deploying and encourage deployment. Tools allow developers and other technical colleagues to self-service their needs.

This new mindset is required to scale systems up to their current large state.  Even medium sized companies may need to administer huge numbers of systems due to VMs and containerizing services in for security and helping to up the scale.  Network engineers cannot be a single chokepoint in this environment.  As well, network engineers should not have to spend the majority of their day assigning ports and vlans manually.

In the past few years, automation tools and network operating systems have finally become interoperable.  Puppet Labs has led the charge with pushing custom agents for traditional network OS’es (like IOS and Junos), as well as partnering with newer operating systems that can run native agents (like EOS or Cumulus Linux).

Without tools, network changes are usually made manually at the command line. Even cut and pasting a known good configuration can incur errors… so many times in my life I’ve pasted a large configuration, only to have the buffers fill up and part of my configuration left out.  Using network automation tools to commit changes to a central repository can ensure that manual errors are a thing of the past.  Code reviews allow a second layer of protection and automated tests can prevent minor typos from bringing down your network.  Automated configuration pushes ensure that no switch will be forgotten when pushing the latest firewall rule.

Long live the automated future!

Leslie Carr works for Cumulus Networks

Other posts in our women in tech week include:

Geeks do drink prosecco
Network filter bypass solutions

Engineer engineering internet

Who sez geeks don’t do prosecco?

Geeks and prosecco do mix!

I’ve been working within the networking industry since 2007. This isn’t the longest time compared to some of you die-hard industry types, but with my first UKNOF in 2009 I was thrust straight into the fabulous world of ISPs, networking and geeks.

It was an odd industry to join as a young 20-something with a background in midwifery. I had jumped from a world of mums, babies, late-night shifts and a female-dominated workplace to a world of switches, routers, late-night maintenance and more males than I’d previously realised existed.

The strange thing is how similar these two worlds actually turned out to be. It’s true that being surrounded by geeky men (and I mean this in the most complimentary sense possible) has introduced me to characters I’d never have encountered in any other walk of life. In six years, I’ve met some truly strange and fabulous people, and there are even those I’ve met for the first time on multiple occasions (more on this later). It’s also true that I found being the only woman present at a several-hundred-strong conference can be intimidating. But the story I want to tell isn’t one of sexism: it’s of a community of geeks that includes both genders and is becoming more welcoming all the time.

When I first made the shift to the geek-world, there were times when my gender made things harder. Some of my male colleagues couldn’t seem to speak to me or even look me in the eye; some thought I must be a sales person; and others assumed I knew nothing about the industry. Initially, of course, those few were right, but not because of my gender. I lacked experience, and the vast majority of the people I met were very kind about that. They helped me to learn. And in some cases, I suspect that being female made it easier for me. I was such a rare commodity that they easily tolerated my presence and my questions: even the silly ones. And the more enlightened amongst them realised that the silliest questions are sometimes exactly the right ones because they come from a place without assumptions based on specific experience.

Over time my knowledge grew and my face became familiar. For me, the names around me got faces or sometimes the faces got names and a lot of the companies became suppliers or customers (occasionally both). More recently, turning up to events is about greeting old friends but that didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual process that happened through the industry’s many events.

Many of you will be familiar with the set-up at UKNOF, LINX, LONAP and various smaller geek meets, but those who have never attended might appreciate a brief description. These are not standard sales events or even networking events where your whole purpose is to meet people who might get you the next step up the corporate ladder.  Instead, these events are about the free exchange of ideas; a place to meet up with the real brains behind the internet in the UK. You are uniquely able to hear technical talks about the new ideas that companies are implementing, hear predictions about where things could be heading and encourage strong relationships between companies working together to push the industry forward.

The real work, however, gets started when the day finishes and everyone heads off to the pub. It’s a chance to chat to presenters about their chosen subject and offer a two-way dialogue. The first step, of course, is to congratulate them on a great talk with the gift of beer, and from that beginning some of the most inspirational ideas can be generated. Increasingly, for me, it’s a chance to catch up with friends from conferences past that I had not seen for months or years, and to find out all the great (or sometimes not-so-great) things they have been working on.

Liz Fletcher at LINX

Of course, there are also always going to be those awkward meet-ups where I am re-introduced to someone who has no memory of me whatsoever. I can think of at least two guys that I have met and talked to on two or three occasions before they had any clue who I was. Some of them I suspect remembered little because eye-contact was actually beyond them, and it’s quite hard to put a face to a face when you’ve never seen it. Others perhaps have so much going on inside their heads that the memory had been pushed out to make room for some router config that was way more important. Either way, it can be disheartening when someone doesn’t just forget your name: they forget that a meeting has happened at all.

But the message to take away from this is that it isn’t just about gender or lack of respect. Geeks of all kinds can be prone to finding social situations challenging, and by perseverance, I became a known and respected member of these circles.

As my involvement in the industry developed, so did my love for new pursuits. I think the key driver for being part of this field is a thirst for knowledge and a keen interesting in trying something new. I’m fascinated by new technology but have you ever noticed how an interest in the new and old go hand in hand? My interests started to broaden and I soon realised that there was fun to be had with these geeks. I’m not ashamed to say that I love steam, old buildings, grand Victorian engineering and board games (yes, even the really geeky board games). The more pumping-stations and heritage railways I visited, the more I realised how fascinating these places were. Working in a highly technical field meant that I appreciated the engineering more and more.


Then in 2013 I had been invited out to London for a Friday night gathering and found myself at a loose end on the Saturday. So I did what any single young female would do when she was on her own in London: I went to my favourite steam museum. I was lucky enough to have a suitably geeky friend willing to accompany me and to run around after me as I excitedly gave him a tour. At that point there was no doubt about it: I was a true geek. I had tried to hide it for the whole of my life but my colours were out.

Now I’m proud to admit that I’m a geek who has probably been to more heritage railways than most train enthusiasts. This Valentine’s Day, I took my boyfriend to the same museum. Although I sold it as a treat for him, I can assure you that there was no difference in the enjoyment we got out of it.

Six years into my career-change, I’ve found that respect often comes from being like-minded. People like those people who are similar to them, and I have embraced those geek tendencies. On top of that, I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and that can often go a long way in helping a project move forwards. I’ve slept on data-centre floors, bruised my arms shifting equipment, racked servers and even accidentally knocked out the occasional very important cable (which I’ve come to realise is a rite of passage). I can remember, clearly, a ‘quick trip to the DC’ at the end of a big project where I realised that the vital fibre link between the racks hadn’t been run by our contractors. Without hesitation I spent 12hrs in the DC single-handedly running bundles of fibre. I often wonder how many times I climbed up and down the ladder, but it was too many times to count. Somehow I managed to get the project finished about thirty minutes before the customer arrived on site, and it was worth a gruelling stint to achieve that.

So this post was ostensibly about sexism in the industry. I can tell you a great story about everyday sexism in B&Q if you like, something so shocking that I really didn’t know what to say to the guy. If you are interested in knowing more just comment below and I will tell the story. But beyond those initial awkward encounters and the occasional assumption that I was just in sales, I couldn’t tell you a single industry-related tale. You might want to read about how I battle with male chauvinism every day as part of my job but I can’t tell you that. I work in a male-dominated industry every day and I enjoy every minute of it. I’ve been in charge of multi-million pound network roll outs and I’ve presented every week to a boardroom full of men. I’ve been in charge of teams of network engineers, software developers, cabling engineers, support desk engineers and systems engineers, but not once felt belittled or patronised.

How this has happened I can’t say for sure. I would love to put it down to the way I work. I’m honest when I don’t know something, I’m firm if disagree with a decision, I value peoples’ opinions and I’m willing to learn. I join in with office banter, enjoy the same pursuits as the guys, work hard and avoid at all costs using my gender to influence others.

But I think that in truth it’s about the industry itself being ready to accept women as much as anything else. Over the years I’ve seen big changes. I’m no longer the only female at conferences. There are a whole bunch of us now and as far as I can tell the others are just as passionate and dedicated as I am. It’s great to have some female company to even things up a bit but we need to do more to encourage women to get passionate about networking.

Over the last six years I have realised just how rewarding working in our industry as a women can be. There are some great female role-models so take every opportunity to talk to them, learn from them and emulate them in your own way. They have worked hard to get where they are today.

In short, I love the ISP industry. Wherever life takes me and whenever I wander off I always come back with a passion even deeper for my love of the people, the tech and the vibrancy of an industry that is constantly going from strength to strength. It is driven by a great bunch of people who should be proud of all they have achieved.

I was always a closet geek and I just needed some help to realise it.

Liz Fletcher is a trained Midwife; cable monkey; Project Manager; prolific prosecco drinker; part-time steam train driver; and occasional singer. As of 3/8/2015 she is looking for a new challenge.

Other Women in Tech week posts include:

How to bypass an ISPs filter

Engineer engineering

Women in tech week

Female blog posts to the fore with women in tech week on

To be honest we shouldn’t have a “women in tech” week on this blog. We shouldn’t have to. However it is still very much the case that blokes hugely outnumber women in the tech industry and a bit of positive discrimination doesn’t do any harm, innit.

All my career I’ve worked “in tech” and there have been very few women on the scene. The only really different environment was at Timico which as a service provider employs lots of girls in customer service roles.This was of course very nice but did lead to problems. The guys and the gals in the office could never agree on what was the right temperature level for the air-conditioning.

Notwithstanding this I am having a week of tech posts by women. The contributors come from a wide variety of roles and backgrounds, ranging from newly qualified graduates to CEOs. I have as is usual in “themed weeks on this blog” shied away from specifying any of the content. This generally results in a wide variety of subjects being discussed and makes for more interesting reading.

Some of the posts do refer to the gender issue and that is fine. Some are pure commentaries on what the author is working on at the moment.

The guest posts will appear every afternoon this week with the first one going live at 1pm each day. Tune in this week for great content on

Engineer engineering internet peering


I have to tell you about RIPE70.

RIPE70 was held in the Okura hotel in Amsterdam. Very nice hotel. Nice pool, sauna, bars etc etc. Amsterdam was very nice too. Great restaurants, picturesque streets and canals. Only downsides were the lethal nature of the roads and the beer. Re the roads you have to look out for cars, cyclists and trams. All on different roadways. I made it back alive. As far as beer goes all I can say is Heiniken. Nuff said.

So far so good. The purpose of this post though is not to tell you what a great time I had. 5* hotel, beer, cocktails, great food etc. It is to reinforce the value of attending such meetings.

Even if you don’t go to the talks, and I did go to a few, the real value is in the corridor chats. At RIPE, just as at most internet conferences, as long as you don’t spout rubbish, you can expect to be sitting down for a coffee with some real heavy hitters in the networking game. Or a beer. Or food.

This industry must be amongst the most egalitarian going. The opportunity to make useful contacts is very real in attending these conferences. You do have to understand how to play the game though.

I remember at the last LINX meeting there were a couple of sales guys stood wearing suits talking to themselves. That’s because they didn’t get it. If the sales people had turned up in jeans, or shorts and t-shirts it would have been a different story.

LONAP attends these meetings because a big proportion of our membership sends engineers to them. It’s a great place for sorting out ongoing issues (planning bandwidth upgrades for example) and meeting new prospects.

It isn’t unusual to have over 50 conversations during a RIPE meeting.  Conversations that might normally be categorised as sales or customer support touch-points. You try having that many useful conversations during a normal business week

They don’t have to be sales conversations. Could be pure engineering idea swapping.

Anyway if you’ve never been you need to sell it to the boss. See ya.

PS check out a load of posts from RIPE69 here.

PPS just got some meeting stats off RIPE:

– 678 attendees checked in
– 166 first-time attendees
– Attendees from 58 countries
– 143 presentations
– 2,691 ratings for presentations submitted

Engineer engineering internet

#UKNOF31 internet industry live blogging from the heart of the Manchester

UKNOF31 from Manchester

Welcome to Manchester and UKNOF31. This is the thrice yearly gathering of the networking industry in the UK. Each meeting seems to be bigger and better than the last and today as people converge on the Manchester Central conference centre I have to tell you it’s shorts weather. No incriminating photos though.

You can check out the agenda here and the live blog starts below. The featured pic btw is the kitchen at Akbars where we had the pre UKNOF curry.

broadband Engineer engineering internet

Bufferbloat and Virgin Media

Virgin Media Buffering – Bufferbloat spat

Bufferbloat, as most of you will know is the situation in a packet switched network where the packet buffers are so large1 they cause high latency and jitter. Bufferbloat can also reduce the network throughput. This post is all about a guy called Dave Taht and his encounter with Virgin Media buffering issues.

On the face of it the Virgin Media headline speeds are great and one often sees tweets with pictures of speed tests showing near to spec speed results. Virgin’s DOCSIS cable modem tech is far better at meeting theoretical specs than is its various competing DSL technologies. I do however occasionally hear anecdotally about Virgin Media buffering problems with their broadband connections.

This blog post describing the Virgin Media buffering problem due to bufferbloat is a bit of an eye opener.

Dave Taht knows what he is talking about when it comes to network performance and pitched in on a Virgin Media forum to complain about why they weren’t doing anything about their buffering problem. Dave ascribed this Virgin Media buffering problem to bufferbloat. Dave is an expert on bufferbloat – check out his website.

In the forum post Dave offered advice on what to do to sort the buffering problem – there are a number of well established fixes.

Virgin not only deleted his post but blacklisted his IP address. This is quite counter productive. It seems to me it would have made much more sense to fix the issue than throw their toys out of the pram. The former course would have generated lots of good PR. The latter the opposite. Witness my own particular post.

The decision to delete Dave’s post was probably take by a low level supervisory person. If a member of the senior management team had been involved one would like to think they would have taken a different approach. It doesn’t matter now. It is interesting to understand that these consumer service businesses are all played out a 60 thousand feet. It’s a game of throwing enough money at specific macro level functions of the business – usually marketing.

Spending a lot on advertising how great you are goes a long way towards making a sale. Most people are sufficiently disinterested in the detail of how their broadband works to note buffering as an issue. It’s only when something gets really bad that people up sticks and go elsewhere.

I don’t know where buffering is at in the Virgin Media list of priorities – something quite possibly driven by the marketing department. It is a shame that they don’t seem to be wanting to fix it though.

1 The fertile imagination will now see a packet buffer large enough to store a whole movie – you will never get to see it:)

Footnote from Dave Taht this evening: (I take no credit for the result 🙂

Thank you. I got my access restored this morning and updated my blog
post, and will put out more information later today on the mailing
lists I spammed later today – BUT! I have no problem continuing
holding the entire industy’s feet to fire for a while, so I don’t
suggest changing your piece on that front.

However, it would benefit from the addition of an embedded link to
this talk at uknof – which is the shortest talk I gave EVER on this
issue, and thoroughly describes the revolution we could make,
together, if we work at it:

(I don’t remember how to embed videos in html anymore!)

… after which I’d had such hope from the follow-on meeting at virgin
as to walk out walking on air. 2 years ago. 🙁

I certainly would like all ISPs to do a little testing of openwrt +
sqm-scripts with fq_codel (barrier breaker has all the fixes that work
on cablemodems, and has a nice gui and is stable. Chaos calmer has all
the DSL fixes, but is not quite stable and takes some work to use –
but it works on currently shipped things like the wndr4300. )

and publish appropriate settings. It is hard for users to get the
measurements right.

All the home router products that just shipped, got their shaping
algorithms terribly, terribly, wrong and missed DSL and PPPOe
compensation entirely. Sigh.

Engineer engineering internet

Live blogging from UKNOF30

It’s hotting up here at UKNOF30 in Bishopsgate. We are deep the heart of the City of London and the place smells of money. Witness the scene that meets you as you walk into the local Tesco express: a large display of champagne – see the featured image. Times are clearly not hard around here.

Anyway I’m going to serve you with the occasional ad hoc snippet live from the meeting. We’ve had the intros from Keith and now it’s Tim Rossiter from Sky talking about their new core network.

broadband Engineer engineering

Openreach engineering visit

Openreach engineering visit fixes one fault and finds another

The doorbell rang yesterday just after lunch. It was an Openreach engineer. Good news. He had come to fix our phone line. I wasn’t expecting him but there again wasn’t going to turn him away.

Out phone line has been jiggered since Saturday. It’s ok as the broadband was still working fine and the only persons that call us on our home phone are scammers and my mother in law. In one sense that was a bit of a result although funnily enough that was not my wife’s view on the situation.

The fibre to the cabinet connection only needs one wire but the phone needs a pair so it is  quite possible for one to continue working without the other.

openreach engineering visit - up a poleSo the engineer turns up and does a few tests both inside and outside the house and proceeds to find two faults. One is the one on the ticket which turns out to be a short circuit somewhere in the house (hoover bashed the socket!?). We fix that by just disconnecting that socket.

The other, which was a bonus, hasn’t been fixed yet and relates to a mismatch between the impedance profile on the two wires, or something along those lines. I wasn’t totally listening.

Our telephone wiring has been butchered about no end of times over the years so it comes as no surprise that there is a fault. It all started when I got so annoyed with BT that I ordered a second line and had a second ADSL line installed with a different provider. Funnily enough after getting the second line put in I got a sales call from BT trying to sell me broadband.

Having two lines coming in to the house has confused things from time to time especially when one of them was no longer in use. During one Openreach engineering visit a couple of years ago the engineer reused one of the spare wires from the second line to fix a fault in the first. This I think is where this current problem lies.

I’m not getting involved. Just leave it to the Openreach engineers who are actually quite a competent bunch of lads. Their (openly stated) problem lies in the fact that the whole copper network is just a pile of cack and it’s a difficult job to stay on top of the faults.

BT do from time to time make announcements to the fact that they are taking on more engineers (go to BT jobs pages here if you are looking around). The time may well come that the cost of maintaining the ageing network will outweigh the cost of rolling out fibre everywhere.

It’s gonna be a while. The only way I can see it happening short term is if we all go out and steal the copper lines. If the whole network was pinched then it would probably make sense to replace it all with fibre. Glass is cheaper than copper. Please don’t try this one at home though. It was merely a throwaway jocular remark intended to raise a smile. It was not intended to be genuine guidance for the frustrated home owner looking for reliability and genuinely high speeds in their broadband connections. Also it would be illegal. You have been warned!

Anyway back to my outstanding fault and the Openreach Engineering visit. My broadband speeds have been a bit up and down of late. I’ve been reluctant to raise a fault as I’d be getting in to a maze of engineering no shows and the possibility that they wouldn’t find a fault anyway as the problem is intermittent. Also it’s not helped by the fact that whenever I do a speed test using one of the network ports in the kitchen it runs at the correct speed. I just didn’t fancy wasting hours trying to improve the home wifi performance.

So I’ve been burying my head in the sand and avoiding the issue. Now thanks to the inadvertent discovery during my other Openreach engineering visit the problem may get sorted. Yay.

Don’t forget you are all invited to the xmas bash. When the tickets are gone they are gone.

Engineer engineering internet

Prince Harry special guest appearance at #ripe69 social

RIPE69 social sponsored by LINX on their 20th birthday

Whoever said the conference game is a nice little cushy few days out of the office has clearly never been to one. RIPE69 is in London this week and has an action packed schedule. There is very little downtime.

This is partly because as soon as the day’s official business is over the official unofficial business begins, in the bar. These events are big budget gigs and most evenings there is a social of some kind. A social for the 600 people attending RIPE69 is no small organisational challenge and comes with no small price tag.

Last night’s social was at the Jewel Bar in Picadilly Circus. Jewel directly opposite the tube entrance and was a very easy hop from the conference venue at the Novotel in Hammersmith. RIPE69 also coincides with LINX’s 20th birthday and LINX last night were very generous sponsoring the evening. The internet runs on beer and LINX have done a very good job in organising a number of parties during the year to demonstrate leadership in this space.

Last night was such a big event in the London party calendar that it attracted a number of A-listers. The featured image shows me with Prince Harry. You can see he was surprisingly bashful about having his photo taken with me. Don’t worry. I was able to keep the conversation going.

Being a quiet living type I left before the end to make sure I caught the last tube home. Not everyone was as sensible. A number of walking dead have been seen around the @lonap sponsored coffee station injecting espresso directly into their veins.

I don’t recommend this method of revival. Far better to make yourself get up early and go for a 5 mile run. Clears the head in no time. Never done it meself but I do hear it works wonders:).

Today is only Wednesday. There are three more days of RIPE69 to go!!!

As we are talking about working hard and playing hard I’ll take this opportunity to remind readers that they are invited to #trefbash2014.  Link here password is “friendoftref”.

broadband Engineer engineering net neutrality

ISP traffic management policies

An overview of consumer ISP traffic management policies

ISP traffic management in which some types of traffic may be prioritised over others has been the subject of an ongoing debate. This is particularly the case amongst the Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP) communities but also elsewhere. NetNeutrality is the issue (look it up) and is extensively covered on this blog.

This post is a simple one. It takes a look at the biggest six ISPs, tells you if they traffic manage and provides a link to the ISP’s own pages on the subject.

ISP Do they traffic manage? Comments
BT No Fair play to them
EE Yes Lots of contractual stuff
Plusnet Yes Looks complicated to me
Sky Yes and No Sky Connect only – Unlimited and Lite packages are free of Traffic Management
TalkTalk No Except to prioritise TV packets which is fair enough
Virgin Media Yes Also looks complicated

It is generally the case that if an ISP does traffic manage they generally prioritise time sensitive packets such as VoIP and gaming. Traditionally this has been done to save bandwidth costs at peak times. However I will say that if TalkTalk who are traditionally seen as a pile it high sell it cheap ISP who you might think would need to conserve bandwidth costs,  can manage without traffic management, so to speak then there should no reason why all the others can’t follow suit. BT and Sky (mostly) do.

It could be down to their having older core networks that require investment but I can’t say for sure. Whatever the reason, bandwidth is cheap and ISP traffic management needs to be seen only in the rear view mirror. It is outdated.

This does to a certain extent come down to scale. The bigger your network the cheaper the bandwidth on a per unit basis. 1Gig connectivity is more expensive per gig that 10Gig etc etc etc

If you need more details on ISP traffic management click on the links in the table. Lots more stuff also on this blog here.

Ciao amigos.

dns Engineer engineering ipv6

UKNOF29 live day 2

UKNOF29 live day 2 – as it happens straight to your connected device wherever you are.

Welcome back to a beautiful late summer’s day in Belfast. Or is it early autumn? Anyway it’s a nice one and we have another great day in prospect. UKNOF live day 2 action is again brought to you from inside the Presbyterian Assembly rooms in downtown Belfast.

Today we have UKNOF in the morning with DNS action followed by a feast of IPv6. After lunch the ION conference kicks in. Stay with us for all the action throughout the day.

Don’t forget you can also follow the action on Twitter at #UKNOF29 and watch the live webcast on the UKNOF website.

btw if you missed UKNOF29 day 1 you can catch up here.

Engineer engineering ipv6 Net

UKNOF29 live blogging

UKNOF29 live blogging from Belfast – stay tuned for live updates as they happen – the best snippets brought to your desktop from inside the room

UKNOF29 is co-located with The Internet Society ION conference at the Assembly Buildings in Belfast. follow the conference on Twitter at #UKNOF29 or #IONConf and watch the live webcast over at . Alternatively stay with the  UKNOF29 live blogging action by following the frequent updates here.

datacentre Engineer engineering internet ipv6

Live blogging from #UKNOF29 and Internet Society ION Conference in belfast next week

Look out for live blogging from UKNOF29 and the Internet Society ION conference in Belfast next week.

UKNOF, or the UK Network Operators Forum have really interesting conferences three times a year. I’ve often thought one could fill the blog for  week or two with posts based on the content. The problem is that it takes a long time to write a post based on an individual talk at a conference and at the same time you need to be listening to the talks. it is therefore impossible to write enough posts in a timely manner to do justice to the job. Getting the speakers themselves to turn their talk into a post is also like getting blood out of a stone. Next week at UKNOF29 I’m taking a different approach.

One of the things I’ve noticed about conference talks over the years is that you can probably choose one or two decent slides from each talk and get the gist of what it is all about. The rest is mainly filler. If you had a digest of all that was good at the conference it would save a lot of time and effort. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t go to conferences because a big chunk of their value is in the networking opportunities the bring. However there must be a way to summarise the conference, an exec or engineering summary maybe.

The answer I think is the live blog, The live blog is what they use to provide updates for sporting events.

GOOOAL  1 -1.

Davies strikes the back of the net after a great cross by Evans from the corner post.

Penalty missed – still 1 – 1

You get my drift. Next week therefore at UKNOF29 in Belfast I’m going to try out  new plugin that provides this functionality. I’ve had it since the design of was changed, around the time of the Pissup in a Brewery, but not used it yet.

When people go to these engineering events a lot of the action is on the IRC back channel. I don’t user IRC because it gets too busy although it can provide some interesting insights. I can only cope with so many means of communication. Also I’ve not identified a suitable plug in for the the chromebook yet. The other channel, which is pretty constrained due to its character limitation is Twitter but hashtags don’t seem to have that much effect at these technical conferences. I think it is more the domain of the marketing luvvie.

So I think the live blog could well work for this sort of event, if properly done. The beauty is that It almost only needs a line or two about each talk. Maybe cut and paste of info from twitter, an occasional pic of a slide etc.

It must be said there’s some great looking stuff being talked about next week:

“What went wrong with IPv6” by Dave Wilson of HEAnet (Ireland’s Janet)

“IPv6 only data centres” by Tom Hill of Bytemark

“Broadcast editing and delivering over IP” by by our old friend (he’s knocking on a bit:) ) Brandon Butterworth of the BBC.

Just a snapshot really of what is on offer. UKNOF29 is colocated with The Internet Society ION conference. There is more IPv6 stuff in their agenda which you can check out here.

At the time of writing there are 142 people registered to attend UKNOF29 . This is pretty good going considering you have to get to Belfast to be there.

More UKNOF blog posts here. Check em out. See you at UKNOF29? Come up and say hello.

broadband Business engineering internet Net

Thoughts on the Future of Broadband Down Under from the Australasian News Desk.

Antipodeans are watching what happens in more mature broadband markets — the UK, the USA — and trying to learn from their mistakes while seeking greater value. welcomes “Broadband Week” guest contributor Tom Avern who, when he isn’t pontificating on the internet, can using be found helping his clients sort out their network issues, riding bicycles, or taking photographs. Tom has been network engineering for 13 years, since he was but a lad, and has a CCNA to prove it.

If there is one global constant with regard to broadband it is that consumers will always want more speed and more bandwidth. Another global constant, of course, is the difficulty of managing the traffic.

One advantage that we antipodeans have is that we can watch what happens in more mature markets — the UK, the USA — and try to learn from their mistakes. For instance, the next big thing here in our sunburnt country is the National Broadband Network (or NBN), a roll-out similar to BT’s efforts with the “Infinity” products and their wholesale equivalents. What is interesting about the NBN process isn’t so much the similarities as it is the differences, and when looking into the available NBN plans and technology that an average broadband consumer may purchase I was surprised at what I found.

First, it seems that copper is almost dead, as the NBN Co will be removing copper lines everywhere and replacing them all with FTTP. Under this scheme, a good old analogue phone will function by way of an interface in the “NBN Connection Box”, which in turn will be connected to a power supply with a battery backup built in to facilitate phone calls during a power outage.

Second, the service itself can be delivered to the “NBN Connection Box” in one of three ways: (1) fibre, as detailed above, (2) wirelessly from a mobile tower, via a panel antenna affixed to the roof of the home, and (3) via satellite, for extremely remote locations. Something for all situations.

Third, the NBN has announced a plan with Telstra to provide VDSL FTTC services to 200,000 homes. This is a copper-based product (the only one yet to make an appearance), and thus it seems that not all of the copper is bound for the scrap yard.

I find myself wondering what will happen at the exchange. For one, there will be a lot of space where backup batteries and copper termination equipment used to reside, and if this space was re-purposed to facilitate server hosting — in a location on top of a major fibre node with decent power availability — well, could it all be leveraged as a business? Would people use it? Also, there could be real value in providing cache servers local to customers in heavy-use areas, to provide faster access to popular resources such as VoIP or VoD.

While writing this article, I compared plans in both the UK and Australian markets, and I found myself disappointed by the lack of value in the Aussie broadband market. Down under, your dollar buys you speed but not much in the way of data allowance. In conjunction, because Australia suffers from a population density problem (or, rather, the lack of such, as in comparison the UK has an average of 0.003 km2 per person while Australia has 0.3 km2), when the costs of delivering utilities is extrapolated you simply have to accept the fact that delivery will be more expensive and time-consuming in Australia.

Mobile data is a bit of a sore point with yours truly as Australia has yet to get mobile data plans that represent what I would call value. There are expensive plans available, including a “massive 512MB” that I find hilarious when compared with the unlimited plans available elsewhere in the world. The country is accessing the same content as the rest of the world with plans that are woefully behind and, again, density appears to be the issue: lots of mobile towers needed to cover a sparsely distributed subscriber base.

Currently, there are areas of Australia that appear on the three-year forecasted availability list for the NBN, so I think we’ll have to wait a while before the totality of the land down under is online at high speed, at value prices or not.


Engineer engineering food and drink fun stuff peering

Pissup in a Brewery – Photographic Proof of a Great LONAP-Sponsored Evening

Pictures from the Pissup In A Brewery held at the Fourpure brewery in London on Thursday 26th June

The Pissup In A Brewery, twas a good night. Sponsored by LONAP it was mostly LONAP members and guests. The rain held off, the food was universally acclaimed as fantastic, the beer was pure, copious and appreciated by all.

I’ve been to two other Pissup In A Brewery events, or Pissups In A Brewery. The first was with Bethesda RFC to a brewery in Liverpool, Castle Eden I think it may have been although time plays tricks with the memory, especially where a brewery is involved. We declined a tour of the brewery in order to maximise the efficiency of our two hours’ free bar. You can imagine the carnage of a coach load of rugby players let loose in the bar. We stopped in Rhyl for fish and chips on the way home. That’s all I can remember.

The other Pissup In A Brewery was at Batemans’ in AWainfleet. Wainfleet was once a port but the river has long since silted up and it is now a cosy village a few skims of a flat stone from the coast. It was a friend’s birthday and we didn’t find out until the end of the trip that he had paid for the lot of us.After the tour we retired to a pie and a pint on one of the local Batemans pubs. V civilised.

Last Thursday’s Pissup In A Brewery was held at Dan Lowe’s Fourpure brewery in South Bermondsey a stone’s throw from Millwall FC. Nuff said. You will note that the phrase Pissup In A Brewery gets repeated a number of times in the post. This is simply because the phrase to me seems to have become a brand in its own right. I can envisage having lots of pissups in lots of breweries. Reality is we might just repeat it next year, Dan Lowe and sponsorship willing. Like I said, twas a great night.

Thanks to LONAP for the sponsorship, thanks to Fourpure Brewery for having us, thanks to Richard Gibbs Catering for a great barbecue and thanks to all who came and enjoyed themselves and helped makeit such an enjoyable night.

broadband Engineer engineering H/W Net

Rural Broadband — a Lesson in JFDI (Part 2)

Rural broadband service deployed by Tim Robinson has made a difference to his local community – Part 2

Readers who have not yet read Part 1 of Tim Robinson’s post will want to do so now, whereas those who have done so and who are no doubt eager to plunge right in should hesitate no longer.

More often than not it pays to keep your mouth shut, however sometimes it pays more to be a blabbermouth! Had I kept quiet about the VDSL2 connection my friend Dave and I jury-rigged from his house to mine I’d have had a 40 Mbit/sec internet service all to myself. Alas, though, I was unable to keep such a good secret. I told my neighbours, who were immediately intrigued and wished to know more. Significant help was offered in exchange for a slice of the pie, so we ran an ethernet cable to the next door neighbour, and a cantenna-based 2.4 GHz link across the road to the other neighbor, and needless to say they were both chuffed to bits. Looking back on it all now, too, I think it is fair to say that without their encouragement and loads of assistance that just might have been the end of the story.

The roof of my house has a bird’s eye view of large swathes of the town, and this inspired us to consider the opportunities that this might open up to serve to the broadbandless burghers of Basingstoke. We decided after a couple of months that it was time to take things a bit further, to spread the net wider so to speak! With the addition of a cheap Mikrotik router, a Freeradius server, some clever MySQL queries from one of the neighbours, and a couple of rooftop antennas, I was able to get a basic configuration running that would allow us to bill users in a way similar to AAISP’s rather complex billing plan. And so, with just a few hundred quid’s worth of kit was born. It may not have compare to the American WWII effort at Iwo Jima, but it felt good nonetheless to get that first base station up and running, with the help of one of my pioneering neighbours. The first paying customers were all members of the Basingstoke Broadband Campaign who lived in my area and who were prepared to put their money where their mouths had been. And the rest, as they say, is history.

During all of this time the leviathan had not completely gone to sleep, as while I was extending the network out to Chineham and Beggarwood — which had even worse broadband speeds than we had over in our neck of the woods — BT and BDUK were plotting to use government money to overbuild my commercially deployed network and steal my customers. Well, that’s how it felt, anyway.

BDUK have since overbuilt a major part of my footprint, and it has been interesting as there was not a sudden and mass exodus from our 8 Mbit/sec service to VDSL2. As such, we had breathing space in which to look for ‘pastures new’, and we started to look further ‘afield’. (Puns very much intended – read on.)

Rather more recently, I was invited by Hampshire County Council to attend a Country Landowner’s Association meeting held in Winchester, to discuss rural broadband. The keynote speakers were Bill Murphy of BT and Maria Miller MP, (who was also Minister for Media Culture and Sport at the time), and needless to say the meeting did not go particularly well for either of them (though the lunch was quite good). There was a lot of animated discussion and, being a member of the awkward squad, I asked a few pertinent questions from the floor.

After the meeting a farmer and his wife approached and told me their long and sad tale. He had a load of farm buildings he’d converted into industrial units, and BT did not have enough copper to provide phones to all of them. The lines that did exist extended 8km to the exchange, too, so broadband was slow and flakey. Word on the street was that one tenant had been quoted £12,000 in excess construction charges to get one analogue line installed, and the farmer was having trouble letting some of the units as a result. He asked me the question I was waiting for: “Could I do anything to help?”

We looked at Google. I told him there was a problem in the way, that being a huge hill that blocked line of sight to his farm from my house. The response to that will forever remain ingrained in my mind. “That’s not a problem. That’s MY hill! Why not stick a repeater on top of it?”

The farmer took me around to his land and showed me what could be seen from where. He spoke to his neighbours, and quite literally elevated us and our survey antennas to new heights in his cherry picker, with cows looking on suspiciously from below. He generally oiled the wheels of progress in such a creative and ‘can-do’ way that within a few months I was connecting his farm, his home and the first of his tenants to our network!

Related posts:

broadband Engineer engineering H/W Net

Rural Broadband — a Lesson in JFDI (Part 1)

Rural broadband strategy- sometimes a community will haver to jfdi & sort their own solution welcomes guest blogger Tim Robinson, Director of TxRx Communications Ltd. Tim’s post will run in three parts, beginning today and extending through to week’s end.

It is an onerous task to write a guest blog for one with as much credibility as @Tref, however this tale needs to be told, and the opinions herein need to be aired.

In the beginning there was ADSL. Historically, most of Basingstoke has suffered from bad broadband speeds. This all comes from having a telephone exchange in the town centre, and having most of the residential areas built in a doughnut-shaped ring around the centre of the town moving out 4-7km (as the copper runs) from the exchange. Thus, broadband was doomed before it was even a twinkle in BT’s eye.

As broadband became more of an essential utility and less of a luxury, campaigns were lead by frustrated people (including me) for whom 1.5 mbit was simply not adequate for doing one’s job, or keeping the offspring up-to-speed with the latest cat videos. We raised the issue with the Big Telco and others, but they all said nothing could be done. Unbeknown to us, though, there was activity between BT and our local council, and in 2010, there was a fanfare of excitement when it was announced that Basingstoke was going to be one of the first towns to get VDSL2 – colloquially (but incorrectly) known as ‘fibre broadband’.

The poor residents on the outskirts of Basingstoke breathed a collective sigh of relief, basking in the ‘knowledge’ that finally BT was doing something to help us. There was elation, and delight. Things were not all that they seemed, though, and the elation lasted only until the actual deployment plans began to be made known. That elation, in fact, quickly turned to disbelief, anger, and frustration. It seemed that BT were cherry-picking the cabinets in the already well-served Virgin Media areas close to town, plus a few others that met some secret internal criteria. The worst served parts of the town would continue to be unserved by the new technology! We were furious that BT had chosen to deploy VDSL2 into places that didn’t really need it, and omitting the places that did!

There were meetings. Beer was cried into. Letters to our MP written. There were Big Meetings with the campaign groups, the council, our MP and important people in BT. Above all, though, there was the spark of an idea. If some areas were to be served by VDSL2, why not pick up the backhaul from a VDSL2 connection and use wireless to provide internet service to the parts that were not included? Thus, this was the start of the JFDI* approach to broadband provision.

I live at the top of a hill. It transpired that a friend — let’s call him ‘Dave’, as it is after all his name — lived exactly 981 metres away, and was one of the ‘chosen ones’ set to receive VDSL2. With an element of stupidly unnecessary risk on Dave’s part, involving antics with a torch and a drill at the top of a three-section ladder, my friend and I determined that we had line of sight to his chimney from my house. Leveraging that knowledge, we managed to get an 80 mbit wireless link from Dave’s house back to what was to become a data centre in my garage. Our excitement was palpable, akin to the feelings of those pioneers who made the first London to New York phone call. Soon after, one of my neighbours lent me an old laptop, which we set up in Dave’s loft and from which we ran constant iperf and ping tests to see if our contraption would actually work.

Convinced over a couple of months that this wireless lark might actually fly, I took the plunge and ordered a shiny new phone line for Dave’s house from AAISP, along with a shiny new VDSL2 connection. (Installation was not exactly smooth, but that is another story.) Finally, once the connection was installed, I linked the Openreach VDSL2 modem straight into the wireless link and fired up a PPPOE connection at my house. Bingo! Suddenly what was 1.4 Mbit/sec on a good day became 40 Mbit/sec…and this was a very good day, indeed.

*To the uninitiated, JFDI stands for ‘Just Flippin Do It’. There are other alternative interpretations of JFDI but this is the one I am using.
Related posts:

Engineer engineering internet peering servers

The 3rd LINX router modelled by @neilmcrae and Keith Mitchell #LINX85

So you think you know your routers? This SPARCstation,,  was LINX’s 3rd router installed at Demon in Finchley (AS2529) in 1994. Before most of today’s ISPs were a twinkling of a Microsoft egg timer.

The SPARCstation is modelled by Keith Mitchel and Neil McRae who I realise don’t look old enough to remember those days but you would be wrong:)

The lads might be able to enlighten us re the throughput capability and route capacity of this box. It would be a far cry from the 100Mbps 100Gbps toys that Neil plays with nowadays at BT. It probably didn’t need to support more than 20 routes!

Neil is holding the router, Keith has the cup of tea. Note that the box is being held higher up than the cup of tea. That’s in case Keith drops the cup – safety in mind.:)

One also wonders at which point racks were standardised at the U dimensions they have today. Many an ISP had rows of tower PCs stood on metal shelves. Of course U’s these days are often Virtual.

linx85 keith neil

SPARCstation IPX

competitions Engineer engineering

Winner of most number of names for trousers competition

You will all remember the kecks are ready mega trousers competition where entrants had to find the most names for that article of clothing. Well we have a winner. Liz Fletcher reminded me of this at #UKNOF28 last week and I duly delivered her of her prize – a large glass of sauvignon blanc. Would have been cheaper had she been a beer drinker but hey, let’s not nit pick eh?

Congrats Liz. Look out for other terrific prize competitions as they happen:)

liz fletcher collects her prize

trefor davies & liz fletcher at #uknof28

Other terrific prize comps:

Spot the IP Phone
Royal baby name competition winners
The TGIF megamug prize with pens and tshirt competition

PS Notice the hearing aid coming out of Liz’ head – she should invest in something a little more discrete

Engineer engineering fun stuff

Hot Air Balloon lands on lawn at DeVere Wokingham Park #uknof28

Those of you who shot off straight after the UKNOF28 meeting missed a sight. It was a hot air balloon landing on the lawn of the hotel. V graceful. I dashed up to the 10th tee to take the vid so that you could share the experience. Good eh? 🙂

Other posts featuring hot air:

It’s too darn hot – not really
30 degrees and the Eastcoast train aircon is broken!
Chromebooks, backups and crackling open fires

broadband Engineer engineering piracy

Broadband traffic management – a thing of the past? #UKNOF28

Broadband traffic management, once an essential tool in an ISPs toolkit is beinsed less and less as the cost of bandwidth decreases.

pirate flagBroadband traffic management seems to have been ditched some time ago by the big ISPs. I may be behind the times here. Had a conversation with a couple of senior tech guys at major UK ISPs who told me they had dropped traffic management up to two years ago.

Traffic management at an ISP is basically where the network employs Deep Packet Inspection kit to examine the type of traffic. Bandwidth hogging protocols such as P2P would be throttled at peak times. They did this to save on costs and to improve the experience for other users. A peer to peer protocol will use all the available bandwidth on a broadband line. It only takes a few users to clog up the backhaul of an ISP.

When DPI was originally deployed P2P traffic represented up to 65% of network traffic. DPI equipment was expensive, didn’t scale well and at the higher end of ISP size never provided a return on investment.

Now with the DPI kit switched off the “problem” P2P traffic remains at the same level in real terms but now represents only 4% of total traffic, the majority being video services such as Netflix and YouTube (I assume). One ISP told me that when they switched off traffic management they saw a little blip in traffic volume but it was negligible in the great scheme of things.

This is quite interesting when considered in relation to the “piracy” debate. Although copyright infringing downloads may well be at the same level of a few years ago is it valid to say that people are increasingly resorting to the use of legal/paid for services instead? If so it makes the whole Digital Economy Act farce even more farcial.

Loads of DEAct related posts here if you want to take a look.

Engineer engineering google

Ever wondered what the translation for Huawei is? #UKNOF28

HuaweiHuawei is the main sponsor for UKNOF28 in Reading. These are great meetings and couldn’t happen without the support of equipment suppliers to the community.

So at the lunch break we were discussing the Huawei presentation and I wondered what the word Huawei actually meant. Did it have a literal translation?

In a flash I whipped out my trusty droid and clicked on my Google Translate app.

The photos on the right show the process. I typed in “Huawei” and asked Google to translate it from Chinese into English.

Google, being the perceptive  creature that it is asked me if I meant 华为 instead?

I suppose I must have meant 华为 so I clicked on it and hey presto Google gave me the answer.

I can definitively (ish) tell you that the translation for Huawei (华为) is,         Huawei.

There you go. All part of the service.

You heard it first on (etc)

HuaweiOther UKNOF related post:

Growth in UKNOF attendance points to healthy networking industry
The leaving of UKNOF 23 – bus #205 to Paddington
Nominet precautions against a nuclear attack

broadband datacentre Engineer engineering internet peering

IXManchester – It’s Quiet Up North #peeringweek

IXManchesterSo IXManchester has been up and running for nearly two years (must make sure someone organises  another birthday party for June) and things continue to grow at a slightly slower pace than the first hectic few months.

January saw a IX Manchester meeting take over part of GMEX Manchester Convention Centre the afternoon before UKNOF 27 and the steering committee were hoping that there would be an announcement on the completion of the fibre ring that would add M247 Icecolo in Trafford and Telecity Joule House is Salford Quays to the core – alas the supplier seems to have run into “issues” and we’re still waiting.

The good news was that the original Brocade’s (re-tasked from the LINX Brocade LAN in London and in service for a number of years before its upgrade to Juniper in 2012) were replace with shiny new  Extreme X670’s. Once the software upgrades have occurred then these will allow ConneXions services providing networks access to the IXManchester LAN from remote locations.

There are now (as of writing this) 44 connected broadband networks with 46 ports in use, 7 of these are 10G so there’s just over 100G of capacity in operation with the new sites and partner connections we’re hoping to crash through 200G this year. Thats a long way behind LINX London with its 500+ members and nearly 8Tb of capacity but its pretty good for a second city in an European country as you can see from the EuroIX list.

In remembrance of the EIX WG I shall now leave you with a traffic graph…


Other peering week posts you might like to read include:

UK internet history – The Early Days of LONAP by Raza Rizvi
INEX’s IXP Manager – Tools to help manage an Internet Exchange by Barry O’Donovan
Regional Peering in the UK by James Blessing
Co-operation makes internet exchanges future proof by Pauline Hartsuiker
Experience of launching an IXP in North America by Ben Hedges
The evolution of an IXP network engineer by Rob Lister
Why does Scotland need an Internet Exchange? by Charlie Boisseau

Engineer engineering peering

The evolution of the IXP Network Engineer… #peeringweek @lonap

Tales from the rarely sighted and lesser spotted IXP Network Engineer…

From the beginning, the principle of an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) is simple. It’s just a layer 2 network, to which participating service providers connect.

Most IXPs started small, and were managed by volunteer efforts, or by another organisation until they become large enough to become an independent organisation, and maybe employ network engineers.
So what do these engineers working at IXPs do?

In the beginning, we just installed the hardware, plugged in the cables, configured a few things and then went to the pub. Life was good! But those days in the pub weren’t to last!