Categories
Engineer UC webrtc

Neill Wilkinson talks standardisation for WebRTC

standardisation for WebRTC

Neill_Wilkinson

Neil Wilkinson was the author of “Next-Generation Networks: Technologies & Services” – for John Wiley and is the owner of Aeonvista Ltd (http://www.aeonvista.com/) . Aeonvista is an ICT Consultancy created by Neill in 2007 who look to maximize the best in class technology thinking to inform their customers. So generating strategic solutions that meet the needs of both large and the small organizations. He writes the final guest post in the GENBAND series on WebRTC.

Some years ago now I published a paper titled “SIP Based Call Centres – A vendor independent architecture for multimedia contact centres”. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet this can still be found at Recursovoip. The paper was based on a number of ideas I put forward in the John Wiley book in 2002, “Next Generation Networks – technologies and Strategies”. Subsequently in 2008, I expanded my ideas to encompass presence in the contact centre in the paper “The Ghost inside the machine”.

The paper discusses the use of automation using voice recognition and intelligent routing to provide front line integrated customer care in the form of a HelpBuddy – essentially a clickable “friend” in the contact list of an Instant Messenger client, like Skype or Google+ chat applications. The HlpBuddy™ represented the summary availability of agents in a multimedia contact centre, and even takes into account queue times and automated FAQ and IVR options.

To a degree, whilst the idea had solid foundations in SIP Presence and in 2008 the fledgling XMPP based presence protocols, realising this idea and extending it to the now familiar (or irritating depending on your mode) pop-up you find on website “Hi my name is Bob, may I help you today?” was difficult and required lots of custom code.

Roll forwards to 2015, and we now have much more of these kind of pop-ups and even products like Amazon’s Mayday have started to proliferate the web. WebRTC is now the most exciting capability for delivering real-time voice and video communications without the need for complex bespoke code, or dedicated applications. The promise of the “no plugin” enable multimedia communications HlpBuddy™ is finally realisable.

Let me re-think/re-word that last paragraph, especially the “need for complex bespoke code” part. Well it’s still somewhat complicated to deal with multi-platform multi-browser, and even different versions of the same browser family, as each has its own “versions” of APIs and ways of dealing with WebRTC based communications. Whilst standardisation is happening in the W3C, support across browsers is… hmm – well different – http://iswebrtcreadyyet.com/. The recent release of Windows 10 and its shiny new browser “Edge” has not exactly helped this picture.

So you’re probably wonder where I am going with this…. TaDah! – Kandy Platform standardisation for WebRTC. A common library of code, that makes it easier to create multimedia apps that will run in any browser and any device, and better still the ability to glue the SIP world in to realise my HlpBuddy™ dream. Now whilst there are other options for javascript libraries for example the aptly named WebRTC.org, and the ubiquitous SER (Kamailio, OpenSIPS), Freeswitch and Asterisk are nudging closer every day to WebRTC support, those helpful people at GENBAND keep all the hard work in dealing with those ever varying APIs hidden behind their libraries. WebRTC enables peer to peer communications directly between browsers (even behind that pesky NAT firewall), but in order to do that a web server is required to facilitate that initial rendezvous, the Kandy platform does all of that too.

So you now have some real choice when it comes implementing applications for the real-time web, Kandy provides a really nice set of features and “glue” to enable multimedia capabilities in Contact Centres, time to have a play with those Javascript libraries….. (https://developer.kandy.io/docs/js-sdk/js-sdk-2-3). Maybe it’s finally time to have a go at getting HlpBuddy™ off the drawing board.

Loads of posts on WebRTC in general on this site here.

Read the previous posts in this Genband sponsored WebRTC week:

The disruptive potential of WebRTC to communications networks by Greg Zweig
The role of the reseller in a software world by Chris Barley
WebRTC and Client Container Technology by Ralph Page
Another step forward for telecommunications for business by Peter Gradwell
WebRTC monetisation by Carlos Aragon

Categories
Apps Engineer webrtc

WebRTC week on trefor.net

 

GENBAND WebRTC Week

Once more it’s WebRTC week on trefor.net. The last time we did this the week was very kindly sponsored by our good friends at ipcortex. Their CEO Rob Pickering assembled a great collection of guest posts on the subject which were very widely shared.

This week’s posts are sponsored by global voice infrastructure player GENBAND. I have worked with GENBAND for the past 10 years. The business, formerly the Nortel carrier division, has come through a difficult time in the telecoms world and has emerged as a very strong player.

This summer I am running a WebRTC Summer of Apps competition based on the GENBAND Kandy platform – register your interest here.

That GENBAND also sponsor this week of WebRTC posts is therefore quite appropriate. The guys at GENBAND have put a lot of effort into sourcing some very interesting pieces which I’m sure you will enjoy. We have great posts going out every day at 1pm.

Note the posts published during these sponsored weeks are not allowed to be sales pitches. However the theme is usually something from a field in which the sponsor may be considered to be an expert. Don’t be surprised then if posts sometimes refer to work/products/solutions owned by the sponsor.

Enjoy.

Categories
Engineer peering

Linkedin links to Lonap

internet traffic growthLinkedIn LONAP membership announcement

Exciting to announce that LONAP has Linkedin as another new member. This follows on from the recent announcement of Apple hooking up with the IXP.

AS 14414 LinkedIn joins an exciting roll call of members in what is a rapidly growing marketplace.

Not all readers will be familiar with the internet peering model whereby content providers and eyeball networks meet at an Internet Exchange Point (IXP). This is a means of getting content from providers servers (eg Amazon/Apple/LinkedIn) content to your broadband ISP and thence to your laptop/tablet/phone.  Connecting via an IXP normally makes for lower cost connectivity and almost more importantly better performing, lower latency (read faster page loads) connectivity.

Membership of an IXP is therefore essential for organisations where quality of their customer experience is very important. VoIP service providers for example. Commercial website owners are also able to express faster page loading in terms of improved profitability – the faster the page load the more likely you are to make a sale.

The LinkedIn LONAP membership is yet another great piece of news for the IXP. The internet industry is just an exciting place to be at the moment. Long may it continue. A full list of LONAP members can be seen here.  LONAP is a member owned not for profit organisation.

I should declare an interest as I am on the board of directors of LONAP. It’s a true pleasure to work with Will Hargrave, Andy Davidson and Richard Irving who are time-served veterans of the peering industry.

London, together with Amsterdam and Frankfurt is one of the major meeting points for the worldwide internet community which is very much run on a basis of mutual benefit.

Most recent LONAP post (on growth) here. Loads of other peering related posts can be found here.

Categories
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

Categories
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

Categories
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.

Bittern

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

Categories
Engineer engineering

Women in tech week

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

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 trefor.net.

Categories
Engineer Net peering

Apple connects to LONAP exchange and pushes connected capacity over 1Tbps

Apple LONAP hook up pushes connected capacity above 1Tbps

Apple Europe (AS714) has  hooked up its network to the LONAP Internet Exchange and taken the London based IXP’s connected capacity to over 1Tbps.

Apple has been busy over the last few months hooking up with Internet Exchanges around the world. We in the industry figured that this made sense as you often hear of ISP network traffic noticeably bursting when the likes of Apple issue software releases. Use of Peering exchanges is not only an economic way of delivering data but normally a better performing solution.

Now that Apple Pay availability has been announced in the UK for July it becomes even clearer in my mind. Speed of connection is important for financial transactions and although Apple have not officially commented on this subject, connecting to LONAP will greatly help with the lower latencies experienced with a connection to an IXP (Internet Exchange Point).

Having Apple on board is a milestone for LONAP and the 16 x 10Gbps ports they have ordered takes the IXP to over 1Tbps of connected capacity. Apple is the latest in a series of high profile names connecting to LONAP. Recent new members include Netflix and Microsoft.

Peering via an Internet Exchange has become a no brainer in the internet networking world. This is shown in the growth of the traffic over LONAP. In 2014 the peak traffic at LONAP doubled and this trend is looking like continuing for 2015.

The fact that LONAP is attracting such high profile members to the exchange is an endorsement of the IXP’s strategy to maintain a high quality network that is very good value for money. The first singlemode fibre 10GigE port costs only £375 a month with subsequent ports at £300.

The internet industry is a great place to be at the moment. Long may it continue. A full list of LONAP members can be seen here.  LONAP is a member owned not for profit organisation.

Most recent LONAP post (on growth) here.

Categories
Engineer fun stuff internet Net

What happened to the router?

Broken router

What happened to this router. Tune in to this blog next week to find out.

Broken router – no use to man nor dog. Well actually the dog had a good play with it.

Categories
Engineer gadgets phones

Supermarket scanner screen surprise

Supermarket scanner thrills and spills

The beauty of modern mobile intergalactic communication devices is that they have cameras. This means that when a photographic opportunity comes along (that doesn’t require lightning reflexes) a device can be whipped out and the moment captured. Such an opportunity presented itself at Waitrose over the Bank Holiday weekend. Entering the high class superstore I swiped my pre-registered credit card at the bank of scanners and waited for one to flash.

Sometimes when I have a kid in tow we play the “guess which scanner it’s going to be” game. This time I was alone but running my eyes over the array of handheld devices in front of me I found that one of them had an error message on the screen. Thrilling1.

Quick as a shopper spotting the last bargain chicken in the reduced items shelf I drew the camera from its pocket shaped holster and speedily took a number of photographs. I had to be quick because I didn’t want to find myself explaining to a growing queue of shoppers waiting to pick up a scanner. I got lucky. No queue formed. I got the pic, picked up the flashing scanner and moved on.

Now, in the comfort of my front room, flicking through the gallery on my phone I’ve found the photos and am prompted to write this post. I Googled “QuickCheckHHTApplication.exe”, the on scanner screen message, but very disappointedly found nothing. Not a surprise really considering the secure nature of the transactions the device is required to process. With hindsight I should have had a play with the scanner and selected “details” as suggested on the screen.

The screen shot isn’t quite as bad (or embarrassing) as the Windows XP screen that sometimes comes up when ATMs need rebooting but it is interesting in its own right. In an ideal world I’d now write a nice little technical appraisal of the functionality of a supermarket scanner but I know noottthinnngg. Could look it up I s’pose but then again I did Google QuickCheckHHTApplication.exe and got nowhere which is more than enough prep for this post. As much as it deserves anyway.

If anyone has a photo of any public device that requires a reboot by all means share. Also if you know anything about supermarket scanners feel free to suggest a guest post. It will be given top priority/stop press2 etc.

ATM posts here and here. ATM images on Google here (I searched on your behalf). Supermarket scanner images here.

1I know I know. Little things eh?
2 won’t be long before the term stop press will be consigned to the history

Categories
Business End User Engineer fun stuff

Happy Birthday to us

Happy Birthday to tref, Happy Birthday to tref, Happy Birthday to trefor dot net, Happy Birthday to tref.

I was writing a proposal last night and in it put a vague “trefor.net has been going 7 or 8 years”. This didn’t feel particularly right. I should know how long the blog has been going.

I looked it up. The next day, ie today was the date of first posting. Nothing particularly inspirational but at least a start. I’m not even going to link to it.

When I started I very much kept quiet about it. I didn’t know how interesting that might be. It’s a subjective thing anyway, interesting. After a while my co powers that be at Timico found it and asked if I could do more of the same. They occasionally whinged about me going off message.  For example when I did guess the royal baby competition but hey, those competitions got tons of entries, mostly from people in the industry. Obviously there are lots of royalists in the internet game (or more likely people up for a laugh).

7 years isn’t a particularly important milestone. It’s where we are at though and we have had a few major things happen in that time:

Pigeon v Broadband race got blanket TV and radio coverage and resulted in public statements from both BT and the Government.

Move Over IPv4 Bring on IPv6 Party to end all parties at the London Transport Museum, Covent Garden attracted 400 people from the UK internet technology scene  and a Government Minister.

Most Comments on a blog post World Record attempt received over 5,500 comments in 24 hours and raised £6,000 for the RNLI

There will I’m sure be more to come. In the seven years we have had nearly 2,500 posts with 750k unique visitors.  We didn’t start monitoring for a couple of years so the actual number will be higher. Those visitors have left over 11,000 comments. There have been many more spam comments but Akismet has done a good job looking after us there.

The number of comments has dropped over the last year or two. This is either down to the blog redesign or a change in the type of post. On the other hand the number of social media shares has grown significantly and comments are often left on LinkedIn or Facebook instead of the blog.

One recent post by Rob Pickering during the ipcortex WebRTC week got 15 Facebook shares, 26 on LinkedIn, 90 tweets and even 8 Google+ shares which is pretty darn amazing (G+ that is – there’s never much engagement there). Socail media shares are the way ahead present. They are a far better indication of the reach of a post than comments (in my inexpert mind).

The featured theme weeks and guest editor weeks are proving to be very successful. Firstly they make for a better variation in content. Our pre-election political week attracted 10 posts from 10 different industry experts (including an MP) each offering advice to David Cameron on what he should and shouldn’t be doing with internet regulations.

Rob Pickering’s guest week is also a good example. 8 posts on WebRTC received around 300 shares. Concentrating on one specific subject for a week allows us to cover that subject reasonably well and it’s a great opportunity for someone wanting to establish web credentials to do so by becoming guest editor for the week. A guest editorship (?) also enhances the content in a way that I couldn’t do as a solo writer.

trefor.net is now a business and has been widening its base. Firstly we brought out broadbandrating.com. This is a broadband comparison site that initially did business in the consumer broadband space. That market is heavily dependant on how much money you can spend marketing so we have evolved that site to include B2B ISPs.

These B2B ISPs don’t get the volume of traffic and level interest of a BT or Virgin spending heavily on above the line advertising. They do however represent a significant market value that is there to be tapped somehow. A referral to a consumer ISP can generate as much as £140 in commission. B2B players tend not to have the systems in place to manage these affiliate relationships but they do pay their channels significant bonuses for bringing on customers. Broadbandrating.com together with some follow on sites represent an interesting prospect for the future.

The other developmental areas are in Events and Marketing Services. trefor.net events include workshops, Executive Dinners and of course the now famous Xmas Bash are effectively networking opportunities for vendors to meet service providers in environments that are non-salesey. They are really industry get-togethers. Expect hte number and nature of these to grow and evolve.

Marketing Services are also a natural place for trefor.net to evolve. Content generation, PR and assistance with events and general marketing are essentially what I have been doing over the last few years. We now have a great team of specialists in this space. In my experience it is difficult to find marketing resources that understand tech.

Now you need look no further – If you need help with this type of activity get in touch – hooking up with @tref on Twitter would be a start.

All in all the first seven years have been very exciting and makes me even more excited about the future. In the meantime now would be an appropriate time to sing Happy Birthday to trefor dot net  – the full words are in the sub header of this post.

C ya…

Categories
Engineer engineering internet peering

RIPE70

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

Categories
Engineer internet peering

Lonap traffic contines to grow apace

Internet traffic growth at Lonap

The chart in the featured image is the yearly 1 day average internet traffic growth at Lonap.

What you see is effectively a reflection of how the internet is growing. The Lonap traffic includes organic growth plus the addition of new members but the details needn’t concern us really – it’s all up and to the right. It’s pretty much the same story in every IXP (except IXP Cardiff but more on that anon). Also peak traffic on the exchange is quite a bit higher than the numbers shown.

internet traffic growthIn 19 months the traffic has almost quadrupled. It’s also interesting to note the drop off at holiday times – notably Christmas and the school summer holidays .

Lonap, in case you didn’t know is an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) and is one of the two main players in London. London in turn is one of the key points of presence on the internet, Amsterdam and Frankfurt being the others in Europe.

It makes sense for networks to employ peering via an internet exchange for both cost and performance reasons. It also makes sense to use multiple IXPs. Only yesterday the Amsterdam based exchange AMS-IX had an outage. It was apparently human error on the part of a member connecting to the exchange.

This type of issue could happen to anyone, despite lots of efforts to minimise the likelihood of a problem. The point is that when an unplanned outage like this happens networks need a back up solution. Whilst IP transit does the job it would be far better to have a suitable IXP alternative.

These alternatives aren’t always available at a given location but where they are then you should consider using one.

In the meantime internet traffic growth is making this industry an exciting place to be. Check out our other internet peering posts here.

Categories
Engineer gadgets webrtc

Hacking together a WebRTC Pi in the sky – keevio eye

WebRTC on a drone

Team ipcortex put together the keevio eye hack for the TADHack London mini hackathon at Idea London on 11-12th April. The idea was to develop a proof of concept for WebRTC running headless on small embedded devices and talking to our keevio video chat interface. Hardly mission critical but TADHack is a load of fun, and a good way of trying stuff out that pushes the technology envelope a bit which inevitably ends up feeding back useful ideas and techniques into our core platforms. There was also a lot riding on this after our success with RTCEmergency at TADHack last year. Matt Preskett is one of our lead developers and the guy behind the hack, and this is his write up of the experience of developing the app.

On the Tuesday evening before TADHack we hadn’t had time to think about possible hacks. We’d been busy with other events and the process of progressing our core keevio platform towards release. A few months ago we were playing with the idea of a WebRTC Raspberry Pi security camera for our bike shed, so as I walked out of the office I suggested, perhaps to my detriment, that it might be a fun idea to use our JavaScript API, running on a Raspberry Pi strapped to the bottom of a quad copter feeding live video via WebRTC…

I did a bit of research on Tuesday evening, but decided with the timescales involved and some of the parts/equipment needed that perhaps we were biting off more than we could chew. Also I wasn’t really sure how I was going to run our API on a headless Raspberry Pi 50ft in the air. Even if that could be overcome I wasn’t sure the ARM processor would be up to the task of decrypting and encrypting the streams.

Wednesday morning I had all but written off the idea. At the time I was working on load testing our UC platform, which required running our API on a headless server. I set about looking into running headless Chromium, and, by the end of Wednesday with the help of Xvfb I had our API running and automatically accepting video chat from keevio.

Thursday was a busy day we didn’t really have an opportunity to discuss the hack. Rob as perhaps a sign of desperation speculatively ordered a Pi and Pi camera.

Friday morning and we still hadn’t concluded what we’d be doing for the hack, after a quick meeting we gave Pi copter (Pi in the sky?) the go ahead. We had just over 48 hours to put all the pieces together. I started off with Raspbian; I don’t really like the extra gumpf that comes with this distribution but I didn’t have time to piece a fresh instance of Debian together. Raspbian only offers Chromium 22 in its repositories; this was when WebRTC was in its infancy. I looked at compiling the latest Chromium, but this would require either a cross compile environment or compiling on the Pi, neither of which I had time for. I looked around again for an alternative distribution and settled on Arch after checking that they offered an up to date version of Chromium for ARM. It’s a bit bleeding edge but more than sufficient for our requirements.

After getting the Pi installed the first thing was to get Chromium to recognise the camera. Chromium talks to video devices through the V4L component of linux.

I inserted the following lines to /boot/config.txt to enable the camera:

gpu_mem=128

start_file=start_x.elf

fixup_file=fixup_x.dat

Then I added the camera module to /etc/modules-load.d/raspberrypi.conf:

bcm2835-v4l2

After rebooting the Pi, udev created a /dev/video0 device, so it was looking good. The next step was to install Chromium, Xvfb and lighttpd. I setup lighttpd to listen on loopback as I was going to be hard coding the username and password into the webpage: not nice but necessary.

This is the JavaScript I wrote for the hack, due to using our API I could keep it short and sweet.


var keevioShare = (
  function(username, password) {

    function avCB(av) {

      console.log('INFO: avCB with', av);

      if ( av.get('existing') )
        return;

      av.hook(
        function() {
          if ( av.get('status') != 'acknowledged' )
            return;
          getUserMedia(
            {
            video: {mandatory: {maxWidth: 640, maxHeight: 480}},
            audio: false
            },
            function(stream) {
              av.accept(stream);
              console.log('INFO: Accepted request with', stream);
            },
            function(e) {
              console.log(e);
            }
          );
          console.log('INFO: Getting user media.');
        }
      );
    }

    function authCB(authenticated) {
      if ( authenticated ) {
        IPCortex.PBX.startPoll(
          function() {
            if ( ! IPCortex.PBX.enableFeature('av', avCB, ['chat']) )
              console.log('ERROR: av not enabled!');
            /* Set myself online */
            IPCortex.PBX.enableChat(function() { });
          },

          function(number, description) {
            console.log('ERROR: API reports ' + description + '!');
          }
        );
        console.log('INFO: Authenticated.');
      } else
        console.log('ERROR: Failed to authenticate!');
    }
    onAPILoadReady = (
      function() {
        IPCortex.PBX.Auth.login(username, password, null, authCB);
      }
    );
  }
);

Next I needed Chromium to start automatically on boot, I cheated a little bit by using cron. I’m not overly familiar with systemd so writing a startup script didn’t seem a priority with the time scale involved. I added the following to crontab:

@reboot /usr/bin/xvfb-run –wait=15 /usr/bin/chromium –use-fake-ui-for-media-stream –disable-default-apps –remote-debugging-port=9222 –user-data-dir=remote-profile http://

localhost &

Chromium required a few switches to allow it to run headless:

1) To stop Chromium asking for permission to access the camera:

–use-fake-ui-for-media-stream

 

2) To stop Chromium asking to be set as default:

–disable-default-apps

 

3) For remote debugging (it only listens on loopback):

–remote-debugging-port=9222

 

4) Place the users Chromium profile in a defined location:

–user-data-dir

At this point I started running into trouble with the camera. Every time I started up Chromium I could only get a maximum resolution of 16×16 no matter what v4l2-ctl commands I ran, which wasn’t going to be a good experience. After quite a lot of searching I found the solution and added the following to /etc/modprobe.d/bcm2835.conf:

options bcm2835-v4l2 gst_v4l2src_is_broken=1

 

We needed to serve everything over https as Rob was going to be in London and I would be back in Buckinghamshire flying the quad. That caused me another headache as you can’t load secure and insecure content in the same page. I setup lighttpd to serve pages via https using a self-signed certificate for localhost. Due to Chromium running headless I couldn’t accept the certificate security warnings; I needed access to the Xvfb instance. Installing x11vnc enabled access to the X display. I started the service using the following command on the Pi:

# x11vnc -localhost -display :99

By default xvfb-run starts on display 99. I port forwarded VNC via SSH:

# ssh [email protected](hostname) -L 5900:127.0.0.1:5900

Then I connected using vncviewer to localhost; this allowed me to import the localhost certificate into Chromium’s certificate authority to stop the security warnings.

I settled on netctl to setup the wireless network as this was quick and easy, after having a bit of a nightmare with an access point I borrowed from work I ended up using an old Sky router I had lying around.

keevio eye - the Pi in the sky
keevio eye mk II: no zip ties in sight!
keevio eye - the Pi in the sky
Special lightweight case and minimal gubbins inside due to payload limitations

Finally I put everything together. Feeding power from the balanced charging port of the LiPo battery to a 5V UBEC into the Pi’s GPIO interface. In the process, I managed to accidentally reverse the polarity into the GPIO… which felt like game over as it was now midday Saturday. Luckily something in the supply saved me and it was OK. Attaching the Pi to the quad was an engineering challenge in itself but inventive use of zip ties and self adhesive pads worked out. After a quick test run we got clean video up to 150M and still received video up to 300M.

Here’s a quick video of keevio eye in action!

Previous posts from the ipcortex WebRTC week:

Wormholes, WebRTC and the implications of algorithmical analysis

Matrix.org: Defragmenting today’s communications

WebRTC – where are the real world applications?

Welcome to ipcortex WebRTC week on trefor.net

Check out all our WebRTC posts here

Categories
Engineer surveillance & privacy video webrtc

Wormholes, WebRTC and the implications of algorithmical analysis

James Batchelor is Founder and Chief Executive at Alertacall, an organisation which uses neat technology to deliver services which increase human contact with people at risk and are used to improve the lives of many thousands of vulnerable people. Prior to that he was involved in the creation several ventures in the internet service provision, internet retail, telecoms, recruitment and telecare sectors. James has been an ipcortex customer since some of our earliest days and is one of those people who, every time I have the pleasure of chatting to him, I always walk away with a valuable bundle of unique insight. I posed the question to James about the technology impact of WebRTC, and this is what he came back with…

WebRTC meets wormholes

On a long-haul flight in 2001, with the occasionally pungent aroma of reconditioned air in my nostrils and the drone of Rolls Royce engines through my headphones I was transported for a few hours not only to USA – but in to an alternative future. I had the immense pleasure of having time and little else to do but read a novel and a science fiction one too.

The story I read, “The Light of Other Days”, is centred on the discovery of wormhole technology which can be used to pass information instantaneously between points in the space-time continuum. The technology is commercialised by a global media company and used to create the “wormcam” which allows for anything anywhere to be viewed with profound implications for privacy.

As I ponder the applications and implications of WebRTC, and explore its own wormhole like qualities, I wonder whether there are similar impacts for humanity and how the absolute digitisation of our communications streams – coupled with the massive computing power now at our fingertips – could impact upon our own privacy in novel and unexpected ways.

My own company Alertacall is particularly interested in understanding how patterns in the way people communicate with us can indicate a change in their “need”. This is with the positive goal of helping our older customers get the help they need before a situation escalates and becomes materially more difficult to manage. And, as our future products and services start to use WebRTC and other similar communications technologies I wonder what additional data we’ll have at our disposal.

Real-time analysis

I’ve long hypothesised that computers should be able to detect from cameras and other input devices subtle things about human physiology that the human eye cannot, but only had clear evidence of it after stumbling across the fascinating TED talk See invisible motion hear silent sounds.

This talk demonstrates the possibility of detecting heart rate with nothing more than video, by analysing the microscopic movements in our skin caused by pulsating arteries. I wonder how long it is before a methodology to determine skin temperature is devised, or what can be inferred by knowing how quickly someone breathes, blinks or swallows?

In 2012 the mathematician Mr Max Little announced that Parkinson’s symptoms can be detected by using algorithms that analyse voice data. There is also Voice Stress Analysis, which can indicate a range of emotional states including the detection of whether someone is potentially lying. What else could be inferred from a “call”?

But what specifically has this got to do with WebRTC and similar stacks? I suggest that the incredible proximity of these communications streams to silicon provides an unprecedented opportunity to develop applications that exploit all of these methods for causes good and bad. For example: imagine if calls to emergency services were prioritised using real-time analysis of video and voice, where the person most likely to be having a heart attack is answered first.

Also, imagine a world, in which the person or organisation you are in a call with has installed one of the dozens of analysis applications that are likely to emerge – and can infer huge amounts about your physiology. “Mum, I’m absolutely fine” the daughter says to her mother, but moments later the concerned mother’s machine tells her it’s simply not true with a simple Chrome plugin.

We’re tremendously excited about the applications we can build with WebRTC to connect with our customers and to connect our customers to each other – but live in constant wonder about what opportunities will emerge.

 

Previous posts from the ipcortex WebRTC week:

Matrix.org: Defragmenting today’s communications

WebRTC – where are the real world applications?

Welcome to ipcortex WebRTC week on trefor.net

Check out all our WebRTC posts here

Categories
Engineer webrtc

WebRTC – where are the real world applications?

I’ve been working with WebRTC for a few years now and from time to time talk in public about the technology and its potential. A pretty popular question goes along the lines of “that’s all very well, but where is the revenue in it for me?”

Around the time we did our first end-user demo of WebRTC technology making phone calls in 2012, I wrote up an article where I predicted a range of applications for the technology. Thankfully none of the fairly scary scenarios that I painted in that post have come to pass. Standardisation and browser support have been a bit slower than some of us would have liked but spite of this WebRTC has been quietly making inroads into both the traditional communications space and being used to deliver novel new applications. With the Microsoft announcement about WebRTC support in the next version of their browser, and Google’s massive strides in reliability and interoperability in the core WebRTC project, the future of the technology now looks certain.

At ipcortex we’ve worked on a number of WebRTC developments including RTCEmergency, a weekend hack last year to re-imagine the way we do emergency services calls which won a Google prize for innovation at TADHack Madrid and, with feet closer to the ground, our first major commercial WebRTC end-user application keevio which provides a full range of business Unified Communication services into any device with a WebRTC capable browser.

Amazon Mayday and other apps, do they or don’t they?

An interesting property of WebRTC is that in a really well implemented application, a user need not know or care if it is using WebRTC. It is of course really easy to tell if a web-page prompts to use the device camera or microphone in Chrome or Firefox and then delivers in-page audio and video without a 10-minute plugin dance, but for a dedicated mobile app with no web interface, it is impossible to know for sure without resorting to examining the source code or tracing interactions on the wire.

That is how the world found out that the Amazon Mayday service was using WebRTC to provide real time video chat as part of its live support service.

Other consumer communication applications that have more or less publicly adopted WebRTC to deliver real time communications over the past couple of years include:

  • Comcast – streaming personal video between set-top boxes and handhelds using WebRTC
  • AT&T – allowing calls to/from own mobile number via browser & API
  • Google Hangouts – Google are the major force behind WebRTC development and it was seen as a bit of a coming of age for the technology when they publicly announced that their flagship hangouts product was now using it half way through 2014.
  • Facebook Messenger – head over to www.messenger.com using Chrome and start an audio of video call with a Facebook friend. Your conversation just used WebRTC. That is a huge user base.

Now to some extent many of these don’t need to use WebRTC to deliver what they do; all of these companies have sufficient muscle that they could have developed dedicated applications or plugins to achieve the same functionality – albeit in a less usable way. Indeed most of the examples above still do use plugins that have been developed if you access them from a browser that doesn’t include native WebRTC support, so WebRTC is just a way of streamlining certain kinds of access.

That’s the point really, WebRTC isn’t something users care about – it should be invisible. It is the applications you create with it that have the user-visible value.

The value is in the application not the network

Whilst the simple messaging use cases for WebRTC have been early adopters, and nobody could claim that Facebook, or WhatApp are commercially insignificant, their existence has probably closed the door on making vast amounts of cash out of building a simple consumer messaging application with a bit of WebRTC voice and video thrown in.

If that is bad news for a would-be application developer, the good news is that the universal end-to-end capability that WebRTC delivers means that smart applications can still emerge which generate value by streamlining some aspect of communication.

Metcalfe’s Law (smart guy, even if he did have to eat his own words after predicting the Internet would collapse by 1997) says that the value of a telecommunication network is proportional to the square of the number of participants. This was later tweaked for social networks to be closer to n  log(n) for the number of participants, but you get the point – it is a hockey stick curve where biggest network creates vast value and smaller networks have a very low comparative value. It explains why for example Fring sold a couple of years ago for a reported $50m and the WhatsApp acquisition closed out at close to $22bn, it also explains RCS’s commercial failure. It is really hard to build networks that acquire enough scale quickly enough to have significant value.

WebRTC is a bit different as, once browser and device support is complete, it builds a ready rich communication network of “everything on the Internet”. That isn’t by the way just “everything on the Internet with a screen”; we’ve put full implementations of WebRTC applications on a Raspberry Pi and strapped it under a quadcopter running off the flying machine battery (more on that later this week!).

A really important feature of building an application with WebRTC is that you get a huge potential Metcalfe’s Law advantage before you write a line of code (but so does everyone else).

Contextual vs Free Communication

So if there is vast amount of potential derived from intrinsic network size, and one class of basic social communication applications are already stitched up, where will the next killer communication applications, perhaps using WebRTC, come from?

Most new applications succeed because they are either some large factor better than what currently exists (10 times is an oft quoted number), or they solve a universally felt pain point.

Thankfully there are lots of pain points in communication, and it is relatively easy to deliver 10 times the value of a 3KHz phone call. Unlike the personal realm, where some quite good messaging tools not only exist but now dominate, business in many areas still relies pretty heavily on basic communication mechanisms.

Look at how phone calls work. Users sit working on a processing task and in the middle of this a loud intrusive ringing sound comes from a plastic box on their desk. They have just a few seconds to decide whether to respond, and the only choice they have is to ignore it and lose the conversation (or even worse commit to a longer interruption to pick up a voicemail later), or pick it up and be immediately dropped into a high bandwidth synchronous communication with no context. The only information they may have about the reason it is ringing will be the name or number of the caller. We must respond immediately, context switching away from what we are doing or not at all. Depending on the job that you do, just the interruption itself, never mind the actual cost of dealing with the communication has probably cost 5-10 mins of productive work. You really wouldn’t invent a system like that from scratch today, and indeed much of the value in existing business phone systems relate to applying workarounds for these fundamental drawbacks (call queues to make interactions asynchronous for the recipient, screen popping/click to dial to give agent context etc).

Phone calls are then initiated outside of any particular context, and once started are synchronous, demanding the undivided attention of both participants.

It is far easier to initiate communication without moving away from a task flow, and with the benefit of additional context. In this way attention flows naturally and productively between communicating and processing. This is one of the important ways that WebRTC will deliver contextual communication from within other task based systems – dealing with customer support communications within the context of a support application etc. Done properly, because it is web based, this will be entirely seamless and the user will just view communication as another task experience.

Synchronous to Asynchronous

Many folks of my age are conditioned and therefore still obsessed with calling each other, but fast forward to the next generation and they pretty much exclusively run their lives far more effectively on asynchronous messaging, only escalating to realtime (usually group) voice/video when they really want to give some high bandwidth communication their undivided attention. This is way more efficient and allows interleaving and prioritising of communications and processing.

Asynchronous, Synchronous, Free and Contextual communication - a quadrant diagram

Not only will the next business communication apps be primarily contextual, if they want to remove pain points, they will also offer asynchronous communications as the norm with a simple escalation path to high bandwidth, rich synchronous communications like video and screensharing with voice.

So in summary what does all this mean to me if I’m thinking of deploying my first WebRTC based service or application?

  1. Don’t think of it as a “WebRTC service”. That shouldn’t be visible to your users if you do your job properly.
  2. A personal multimedia messaging application for free communication among your own customers is fine, but won’t set the world on fire – you will be competing with WhatsApp, Facebook, appear.in, Google etc and Metcalfe’s law is on their side (unless federation ever happens and don’t bet on that).
  3. If you are looking for a USP, think of integration with a key business process to either massively streamline communication or remove a pain point.
  4. Find a bunch of 16-25 year olds and test your application with them. If it has the key attributes of contextual and asynchronous then it will probably pass muster with them. If it doesn’t, they will wonder what planet you come from.
  5. Don’t think about it for too long – just get on and do it! The time for producing WebRTC toolkits, APIs, test applications and pilots was 2013, it is about delivering polished applications and services ahead of the competition now.

 

Previous posts from the ipcortex WebRTC week:

Welcome to ipcortex WebRTC week on trefor.net

 

Categories
Engineer webrtc

ipcortex WebRTC week cc @ipcortex

Welcome to ipcortex WebRTC week on trefor.net.

It is with some terror that I accepted the invitation to contribute a series of posts here on the future of communication technology – Tref’s readers are a pretty smart bunch and this is a great opportunity make complete fools of ourselves when our crystal ball inevitably turns out to be myopic given a few months or years of hindsight.

We’ve instead decided to ask the following question as a theme for the week and then invite some posts that illustrate views of the future from different perspectives, not just our own.

Game changers like WebRTC are emerging and will spawn a wide new range of services with secure, contextual user to user and user to server communication. Wildly imaginative applications for this technology are already starting to be developed and many more are probably yet to be invented.

Irrespective of the technology most people already rely on the rich and intuitive communication capabilities of various existing Internet based silos to run their personal and social lives.

On the other hand, much of our business and formal communication is still using the kind of systems that we are giving up on in the personal realm: email, telephone calls etc.

So the question is this: what factors will shape how we use communication technology in future? will users just be swept along on application by application waves of technical features, or can we hope to shape things by applying what we have learned about how people want to communicate to build useful global capabilities?

In line with this theme, coming up we have:

  • Some ideas on how the future of WebRTC will pan out, timed to coincide with the ITSPA workshop in London today
  • Matt, one of the developers of keevio eye, an R&D hack to put video chat on a Raspberry Pi and strap it on a drone will be talking about how he did it and the kind of serious applications this enables
  • The folks from matrix.org will be talking about their attempt to build an open standard for decentralised communications and federation

This is an exciting time with some big recent shifts, and even bigger ones ahead. We hope you enjoy reading the ipcortex week posts and that they stimulate some healthy debate.

Rob Pickering is CEO and Founder of British communication software vendor ipcortex. An engineer with a technical pedigree tracing back to the beginnings of TCP/IP, he is a keen innovator and a champion of open standards like WebRTC, which are helping to improve the way we work. His team have worked on a number of WebRTC developments including keevio, their latest production interface that extends UC and multimedia functionality to the web browser, and RTCEmergency, the Google prize-winning proof of concept app that augments emergency services calls with real time video

Footnote by Tref: This is Rob’s first post on WebRTC on trefor.net. Rob has significant form when it comes to the technology. I first encountered WebRTC at an ipcortex seminar in which I was thrilled to make one of the first WebRTC to PSTN phone calls. Check it out here.

Loads of WebRTC posts on this blog here.

Categories
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.

Categories
Engineer peering

Euro-IX 26 Day 2 live blogging

OK kids it’s day 2 at Euro-IX and the conference is in full swing with a packed room at the Pullman Palm Beach in Marseille. Last night was the usual humdinger with dinner at La Nautique in the Old Harbour followed by a bit of community singing on the bus and then dancing to Abba back at the bar in the hotel. We know how to live in the IXP game.

Categories
Engineer peering

Euro-IX 26 live blog from Marseille

Euro-IX 26 comments from sunny Marseille

Morning all. Trust we are bright and breezy on this fine Mediterranean morning. I am in Marseille for Euro-IX 26. These Euro-IX fora (not forums) happen every 6 months and are a great way for keeping up with what’s going on in the world of Internet Exchange Points (IXP). Keep this page open for updates as they happen at the conference together, of course with insightful comments.

Now on Franck Simon from our hosts France-IX.

Categories
Engineer internet peering

Solar eclipse drives dip in UK internet traffic @lonap

internet traffic dip during eclipseInternet traffic dip during eclipse – unusual behaviour for a big news event

We saw an unusual internet traffic dip in traffic across the LONAP network this morning as presumably people downed their devices and went outside to watch the solar eclipse.

I only found out the eclipse was happening yesterday as the papers started to publish guides on how to watch it without looking directly into the sun.

The chart thumbnail on the left shows the traffic building normally for the day. Then as the scheduled time for the event draws nearer you can see the upward curve stops abruptly and then drops down again.

These solar eclipses are, we are told very rare events. The internet traffic pattern that resulted is also rare:)

I was having a late breakfast in London at the time of the eclipse. Between mouthfulls I kept popping outside to see if there was any sign of it. Not a single ray! In fact the sun was nowhere to be seen in London. V disappointing.

LONAP is a London based Internet Exchange Point and I have to say that I am privileged to be on their board. You can check out other peering posts here. As far as I can recall there are no other eclipse related posts:)

internet traffic dip during eclipse – exciting though the eclipse was a disappointment.

Categories
Business Engineer internet peering

Internet bandwidth trend continues to new peaks almost daily @lonap

Internet bandwidth trend – usage continues to grow

The title of this post might encourage the odd wise crack. Bear s&*%s in woods etc. Of course internet bandwidth use is growing. The point is though that in the past we have occasionally seen big spikes in bandwidth that have subsequently driven average usage and growth. The Olympic games, football world cup and general elections spring particularly to mind.

What we’re seeing now is different. We now have an almost daily general trend upwards rather than a big spike that breaks new records followed by a bit of up and down on the graph. There doesn’t seem to be any one thing driving it. It’s all general internet use.

LONAP is an internet exchange point (IXP) where networks connect with each other to share traffic (called peering). It’s not just general growth in internet traffic that drives the LONAP graphs up and to the right. There is also a realisation that peering is a far better means of accessing the internet than the alternative of commercial transit. Peering at an IXP is not just cheaper. It’s also better quality. Faster. Fewer hops.

There are a number of highly publicised business cases for use of Peering in IP connectivity in the wider commercial internet:

  • Amazon quote a 1% increase in revenue for every 100ms improvement in page load time
  • Yahoo increased traffic by 9% for every 400ms of improvement
  • Google – “slowing down the search results page by 100 – 400 ms has a measurable impact on the number of searches per user of -0.2% to -0.6%”

Using Peering helps to lower latency and underwrites these business drivers. Content providers also like the better user experience that fast page loads bring and they are increasingly moving to join internet exchanges such as LONAP.

From what I can see all IXPs are growing. In London we have two: LINX and LONAP. Both are globally significant. In a world where infrastructure resilience is important operators are increasingly adding to the resilience of their own networks by peering at both London exchanges. London is said to have more AS number (individual autonomous networks or Autonomous Systems) POPs than any other city.  The presence of two major exchanges may be both a reflection of this and a reason why.

These drivers point to a growth in IXP traffic that exceeds that of the general internet. The chart in the featured image above shows the trend at LONAP over the past 12 months. It shows a pretty dramatic doubling of bandwidth usage over the year. This other chart (inset) shows the growth over the last few days. Ignoring weekends you can see a daily trend.

lonap-total-week

Looking back five years LONAP has been highly successful in growing its business. 5 year membership has grown from 90 to 145 organisations. Bandwidth usage has rocketed from 10Gbps to 100Gbps (151 ports to 256 connected ports) and the turnover has seen a steady growth from £190k to £409k. It must be remembered that as a not for profit organisation the objective is not to grow sales revenues but to hand as much as the profits back to members. The increase in membership numbers and bandwidth is seen as the real added value.

This year we are seeing significant momentum in both new membership applications and bandwidth growth. My gut feel is that when it comes to the end of 2015 we will be looking back at an even greater level of growth. With the internet bandwidth trend only going one way it’s an exciting time to be around. 

Check out other LONAP posts here (I’m on the board of directors so there are a few). General peering posts here and LONAP themselves here.

Categories
Business Engineer peering voip

ITSPA Awards 2015 tickets now on sale – I’ll be there with LONAP at the Tate Modern

ITSPA Awards 2015 – 2.30 – 5pm, 19th March, Tate Modern

Yo y’all. Tickets for the ITSPA Awards 2015 are now available here. If you are in the Internet Telephony Service Provider community or supply to them you need to be there. These events are always fantastic networking opportunities. You get to mix with most of the players in the UK hosted VoIP community.

If you are a supplier, most of your prospects will be there. If you are a service provider your competitiors’ CEO is likely to be there and very approachable. I’ll be there for a chat as well (fwiw).

As an added bonus some of the LONAP board will be there – I include myself. LONAP as most of you will know is an Internet Exchange Point (IXP). Quite a few ITSPA members are also LONAP members. We have also recently had a number of enquiries from other ITSPA members re joining LONAP.

The benefits of joining LONAP for ITSPA members are clear. Lower latency and lower internet access costs for your traffic – the use of peering in this situation has a well established business model.

So in the interest of world peace and low latency networking LONAP are inviting their members and prospects for a few beers after the Awards themselves. We will thereafter be decamping to a curry house of good repute.

If you are a LONAP member or prospect and are going to the ITSPA Awards let me know in advance if you want to come for the curry as I will need to pre-book the numbers. If you fit into one of these categories but are not coming to the Awards themselves and want to come for the curry also let me know. No freeloaders, time wasters or snake oil salesmen:)

Just as an fyi for the ITSPA Awards 2015 we have had 66 entries from 34 companies for the categories below:

  • Best Consumer VoIP
  • Best Business ITSP (Small Enterprise, Medium Enterprise and Corporate)
  • Best VoIP CPE
  • Best VoIP Infrastructure
  • Best VoIP Innovation

We aso have as separate awards

  • The ITSPA Members’ Pick
  • The ITSPA Champion

Exciting eh? Not everyone can win at the ITSPA Awards 2015 but you are guaranteed to have a good time and chat with useful people. Book your tickets now:)

Amazingly posts about the ITSPA Awards on this blog go back to 2008! Check em out here.

Categories
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:

https://plus.google.com/103994842436128003171/posts/Kpogana4pze

(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.

Categories
Business Cloud Engineer

Cloud Provider Survey – what do you look for most in a provider of cloud services

Cloud provider survey

I’m currently putting together a website aimed at the cloud services market. People will be able to choose the best provider for them based on what parameters are most important to them. With that in mind I’m doing a cloud provider survey and as a little exercise I’m asking readers to tell me what are the most important aspects of a cloud service that they look for when choosing a provider.

I could make this a highly complex questionnaire but I’m not going to. If you could either just leave a comment or email me with a brief list of your priorities that would help me greatly.

The things to consider include price, performance, SLA, security and support etc. How do you go about choosing a provider?

The site is initially going to focus on storage and web computing services but I anticipate expanding the range of services covered to include applications. Even hosted VoIP could eventually make the list.

All comments (or emails if you want to keep it private) gratefully acknowledged. I’ll be taking all the inputs on board and playing them into the design of the new site.

Thanks in advance.

Tref

Categories
Engineer fun stuff peering

PRIZE COMPETITION – guess who’s wearing the sandals #LINX88

PRIZE COMPETITION

Guess who’s wearing the sandals at LINX88. There may be more than one person wearing sandals, this being an internet engineering meeting. Steve Lalonde plus the wearer of the sandals may not enter.

The prize is either I’ll buy you a beer or I’ll buy breakfast at Silva’s Caff on Shaftesbury Ave at 8am tomorrow morning. Steve and I will be there from 8am. It’s one the of the best.

If you want to add a caption for effect feel free.

Categories
Engineer peering

LINX88 notes thoughts and ramblings

LINX88 notes and thoughts

LINX is without doubt a big outfit. The stats speak for themselves:

  • 603 member ASNs
  • 22 new applications in 2015
  • 1454 connected member ports
  • 851 member-facing 10GigE ports
  • 13 member-facing 100GigE ports
  • over 2.53 Tb/sec of peak traffic
  • 10.212 Tb of connected capacity
  • 583 members
  • 62 member countries

The internet plumbing game is an exciting place to be. It’s a place of constant growth. And change. Where there is growth and change there is opportunity.

The model hasn’t really changed much over the years. It’s all about connecting networks with increasingly faster links. We have seemingly only just started talking about 100GigE but now LINX has 13 live 100Gig ports. It’s only a matter of time before we see their first 400Gig connection. The first Petabit per second peak will surely follow.

The thing about the internet plumbing game is that there doesn’t seem to be any sign of an easing off of growth. We still have bandwidth drivers in the early stages of the hype curve. 8K TV for example. Internet of Things? How about 8K TV over IOT? Why not?

The engineers that run the internet are simple folk. Don’t get me wrong. They are highly intelligent but they see life quite simply. Give them enough beer, food and fine wines, fly them business class and put them up in comfortable hotels and they are happy. Given this they will happily work long hours and keep the internet running on your behalf.

LINX is 21 years old in 2015. That gives you a feel for how old the actual internet is. It also allows us to have a load of coming of age parties to follow on from the 20th birthday bashes last year but that is by the by.

Look out for the next post which is all about sandals and socks.

Categories
broadband Business Engineer Net

Virgin expansion – a quick shufty at the business case & why they aren’t interested in the final third

Virgin Media expansion

All over the news today are the Virgin Media expansions plans. Virgin plan to spend £3billion expanding their network reach from 13 million to 17 million homes. That’s £750 per household passed. If, following this investment, Virgin grows its customer base by the same proportion as the growth in network coverage they might expect to grow their base from 5 million to 6.5 million customers. That would make it £2000 per acquired customer. Let’s not worry about other customer acquisition costs.

Virgin will depreciate that cost over maybe 25 years so that’s £80 per customer per annum, or £6.66 a month. That’s £6.66 of the monthly subscription cost of a new customer being the cost of laying down the network. This would be reduced if they depreciated it over a longer period which maybe they do – I imagine BT’s strategy is to depreciate over many decades as once in the infrastructure lasts a long time. A chunk of the £3bn might well be operational cost which would reduce the depreciation but add to operations costs.

Brings it home as to why these services cost what they do. It’s analagous to why a BT line rental costs roughly £16 a month although one imagines that BT has written off most of the capex of installing its copper. Even though broadband can almost seem to be free nowadays the cost at the lower end is driven by the line rental. When it comes to superfast broadband bandwidth costs come more into play.

The revenue growth would notionally increase from £4.2bn to £5.5bn although I’m being a little simplistic and not taking the effect of their mobile business into consideration.

I haven’t seen profit numbers for 2014 but I think they are pretty profitable. Lets assume 10% profit. Could be more. 10% profit of the delta sales arising from the new investment (our guess is around £1.3bn as stated) would be £130m a year. That would be a 23 year payback time for the £3bn of cash spent. It’s a long term game isn’t it?

These numbers are very rough back of a fag packet calcs but I think it certainly gives you an idea. I’m sure there are lots of Variables played in by Virgin accountants to come up with a business case. Also I’ve almost certainly missed something out but I bet I’m not far off the mark.

A 23 year Return on Investment wouldn’t pass muster with most companies. Even BT which is in the same long term infrastructure game as Virgin. I’m told that BT’s Cornwall infrastructure project which had the benefit of substantial EC cash only showed a reasonable time to money because of that EC money. And that was something like a 12 – 13 year payback.

Note there were according to the Office for National Statistics 26.7 million households in the UK in 2014.

So Virgin’s investment takes them to around 64% coverage. Their existing network reaches around 49% of the population so for £3m they get 15% more. If we were to extrapolate these numbers then the whole country would cost £20billion to service. I realise it isn’t as simple as that but the number isn’t orders of magnitudes adrift from the Caio report of a few years back which estimated the total cost of rolling ubiquitous Fibre to be around £29bn.

If we keep the maths simple and assume that rural areas would cost the same per household to service, which they won’t the cost of extending the Virgin network to every household would be just over £7bn. I don’t have the additional cost of servicing non-metropolitan areas off the top of my head but it wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t represented by the £9bn delta between my own calcs in this post and Caio.

So the cost of providing a high speed broadband infrastructure to the last third for a new provider feels as if it would be something like £16bn. We don’t have a number were BT to be the provider but BT will already have a chunk of infrastructure in place towards fulfilling the job.

My guess is that there’s no way based on these projected costs that Virgin would ever seek to invest in the “final third”. Their RoI/payback would stretch almost to the next century. This is just a bit of an exercise but it does serve to illustrate the long term game that is the telco business.

Categories
charitable Engineer

Support Ben White – he could do with your help

Support Ben White

Ben White is a really nice bloke. He is a networking engineer and used to work for me at Timico before growing out of the job and heading for greener grass. Ben is also a really good networking engineer. In fact he is both a really nice bloke and a really good network engineer.

Ben has a problem. He is into adrenaline rushes and has for years been into freefall sky diving. Unfortunately last year he had an accident. The upshot is a broken back,  5 months of hospital and rehab, 4 major operations to fix a broken femur, 6 broken ribs, 5 broken vertebra and to stabilise a crushed spine, while coming to terms with being a T10 complete paraplegic who has no feeling or movement below his belly button.

He is lucky to have the love of Jen who writes:

“It turns out, the hardest part of this journey so far is coming home and being faced with a house that fights you at everything you try to do.

Ben sustained his injuries during a hard parachute landing at Hibaldstow drop zone in July 2014, while training for the skydiving world championships. British Silver medallist in freestyle, just 4 weeks before the competition, Ben’s life changed forever and his dream was over. Now he faces challenges he never thought he would have to, struggles that wouldn’t even occur to most people as we do things like sit down on a couch and get up again naturally without even thinking about it. It takes Ben 2 hours to get up and get ready in the morning when it otherwise takes me 30 minutes. Basic things are obstacles to overcome and I just want to help Ben, by making his house wheelchair friendly. I want him to be able to shower and to cook a meal and to leave the house to get milk without needing my help.

Unfortunately Ben does not quality for a government grant to make essential adaptations to his home, which include wheelchair access to the property, and through floor lift, washing facilities and an accessible kitchen as well as items such as a lightweight wheelchair and other recommended equipment. We are therefore asking for your support with donations, large or small to help make these adaptations so Ben can live as independently as possible.

If you’d like to donate you an do so at: https://www.youcaring.com/helpbenwhite

Please support Ben White. You may also want to “like” his Facebook page here. Be has occasionally appeared elsewhere in this blog in the past. Here he is modelling a new whiteboard!!

Categories
4g End User Engineer Mobile

Mobile data bandwidth in channel tunnel

Channel tunnel mobile data rate impressed

Over in gay Paree for a few days to settle my daughter into the next six months of her year abroad adventure. yesterday was a freezing 11 hours traipsing around prospective flatshares.

Couple of things I noticed both here and on the way over. In the Channel Tunnel I was getting LTE on my Oneplus One phone. I’m with O2 and the Oneplus doesn’t support O2 LTE spectra in the UK. The Chunnel however was a different ball game. Despite having data roaming switched off I found I was getting 16Megs down under the water. Whiled away a bit of the journey.  The rest of it was spent listening to sounds on the phone.

The next thing I noticed is that people were using their phones on the Metro in Paris. If you haven’t been the Paris Metro is just like the London Underground. It’s underground. Why can’t we have mobile connectivity on the tube. It was the same in Barcelona. People talking on their phones on the Metro.

That’s all for now. Just one thing before I go. If you are thinking of coming for a leisure break to Paris in February I’d say there were better places to go. It’s absolutely freezing here. Of course I’m here to do a job but the same advice applies