Engineer engineering H/W

New toys for the boys Cisco ASR1002

Cisco ASR1002

To keep engineers happy you have to give them toys to play with. In our game it is fairly straightforward because the network is always evolving. It’s all about continuous upgrade.

The “problem” at Timico is driven by two factors:

  1. the need to keep moving with the times
  2. the need to add extra capacity

In a world where the broadband market has been fairly stagnant or at best slow moving for a number of years, certainly in terms of total numbers of subscribers, our broadband customer base seems to be growing in step functions. A strong driver for this is that we deal with businesses that often have many sites that need connecting – sometimes thousands. We aren’t therefore driven by the need to continuously bomb the price and and more into the bundle such as TV.

Our customers are of course interested in price but they also want a management wrap.  Network uptime is more important to them than price because downtime means loss of cash.

So the ASR1002 in the pic is one of a number that will be integrated into the network as LNSs (Layer 2 Network Servers). Each can cope with 64k users. We won’t be pushing them hard. We are after reliability and don’t want to cram as many users as possible onto each one.

That’s all. Funny what you pick up when walking around the office innit?

Engineer internet ipv6

A few observations on the Cisco Annual VNI Report 2012 – 2017

Trefor Davies thumbnail pictureI live in my own little world. It’s a connected world but relatively contained. I have a modest 2,461 followers on Twitter, 455 friends on Facebook and over 5001 connections of LinkedIn.

All this comes in to perspective when you read Cisco’s annual Visual Networking Index, a body of research that charts the growth of the internet and forecasts traffic patterns over the next five years. The latest issue is just out and comes with a ton of data. I’ve distilled a few points that jumped out of the router at me and shared them below.

Connected people and IPv6

According to the forecast by 2017 3.6 billion people will be connected to the Internet, up from 2.3 billion in 2012. Also by 2017 there will be 19 billion networked devices, up from 12 billion last year.

That’s a lot of people and a lot of devices. The fact that there are around 5 times more devices than people is a reflection of the growth of machine to machine connectivity. Nobody is going to be carrying around five networked devices, although having said that I carry four but don’t use me as an example of Mr Average.

It’s interesting to note that the number of IPv6 connected devices is forecast to grow from 1.6 billion in 2012 to 8 billion in 2017. On the face of it this suggests that most of the growth in connected devices is going to come from IPv6 which shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Metro versus long haul

Cisco reckons that metro traffic will surpass long haul traffic in 2014 and will account for 58% of total IP traffic by 2017 and will grow nearly twice as fast as long-haul traffic from 2012 to 2017. This is not something that your average man in the street will have to think about but it does help us to understand the trend towards regional peering exchanges.

Historically most ISPs connect to the internet at a few major hubs. London is one such hub. However as more and more traffic is local traffic it makes more sense to connect this traffic near to where it originates. For example the traffic between two servers “taking to each other” in Leeds would historically have been tromboned to London and back. It obviously doesn’t make sense to pay to cart data hundreds of miles and back if it can be done more directly. Now ISPs with a reasonable density of customers in Leeds can connect via the IX Leeds Peering exchange. The same applies for Manchester. In time as traffic levels grow the business case for smaller metropolitan areas will work we will see other locations appear on the connected map.


Wi-Fi and mobile-connected devices will generate 68% of Internet traffic by 2017. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this number upsided. The only fixed internet connections in our house are the Xbox and my home office VoIP phone and the XBox is likely to go wireless when the new one comes out later this year. I would guess that most wired internet connectivity is going to be business based.

There’s more info on the Cisco blog here together with links to tools that allow you to play with the numbers. It’s well worth a browse.

Returning to my opening lines and the number of people I connect with, all these statistics do highlight the changing nature of our world. We are going to have to continue to adapt as more and more of our daily lives become electronic and connected.

I think these are exciting times from both a personal and business perspective. Exciting because of the wave of change sweeping across our personal lives that will hopefully enrich and enhance the quality of our lives. Exciting from a business perspective because there is money to be made out of all this growth.

That’s all folks…

1 no idea actually how many because it only tells me 500+ and I couldn’t figure out how many and I wasn’t prepared to spend any time finding out how to do it.

Business engineering

Cisco London Partner Forum, apprentices, graduates, growth and investment

Sat with a lot of grey suits at the Cisco London Partner Forum. @richorob is speaking. Cisco always have lots of interesting stats to talk about. They are a rich source of data about the high tech world we live in and make a living out of. You can look on their website for specific stuff, I’m not writing about it here.

What did interest me was the audience response to a couple of questions.

@richorob asked how many in the audience were expecting their businesses to grow this year. My gut feel is that only maybe 25% of people raised their hands. Extending this to 10% or more growth quite a few with their hands up dropped them. I’d say that less than 10% of the audience were expecting double digit sales growth. My hand stayed up btw.

Interesting. Times are clearly hard out there even in a market sector that has always been high growth driven by technological change.

Later he asked how many companies took on apprentices or graduates in their business. The response was astonishing. Maybe 10 or 15 hands went up out of at least 200 people in the room. The businesses in the room are all in the high tech game. They may well be sales orientated but in this world a highly skilled and highly educated workforce is absolutely essential. The quality of the person that you put in front of your customers is the difference between sinking and making that 10% progress. The stream is fast moving.

I’m not just talking about sales people. Our most recent apprentices have been in our reception team and in the IT department and graduate recruits get trained around different departments before deciding on the type of job they would like, except perhaps for the developers who prefer to go into a dark room with other geeks and do their stuff” :).

Times may well be hard out there but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. That’ll do for now – I need to listen to the talks.

Business virtualisation

The complex weave of the modern IT world

Cisco certificationsCisco, as you may know, has introduced a new set of professional technical certifications based around the data centre. This is a natural move. Cisco already has Voice, Security, Routing and Switching and Design certification streams and the Data Centre is a big part of its future.

At Timico we use a Cisco data centre fabric with UCS blades running on top of EMC storage. On that infrastructure we run VMware. We also run Microsoft applications, use Cisco at the Edge of the network and Juniper in the core. Most of our ISP server estate is Linux based.

That’s an exciting technology mix. It’s also a lot of areas of specialisation and not only are our engineers often doing training courses but we are always on the lookout for specific talent, especially in the virtualisation world.

Where is this conversation leading. I guess I’m concluding that it will be increasingly the case that our customers will not have the right mix of skills in these technology areas to be able to effectively develop solutions for their own business. The role of an IT department, apart from servicing their own stakeholders, will be more and more strategic focusing on the selection management of their supplier partners.

End User olympics

is this an Olympic or world record for most beers consumed?

beer barrels at the Heineken beer garden just outside the Olympic Park

Don’t know about you but I don’t think I”ve ever seen so many beer barrels. Maybe its because I’m a small town boy with a lot to learn about the ways of the world.

view of the Heineken beer garden from the Cisco House balconyThey were at the back of the Heineken beer garden which was just outside the Cisco House. The next pic is a wider view of the garden taken from the top floor balcony of the Cisco House. Didn’t go there myself as were were well catered for with teas and coffees etc provided by Cisco.

End User olympics

Getting acquainted with Henry

Telling it like it is in real (ish) time. From left to right Dr Henry Kissinger, Trefor Davies and Calum Malcolm at the Cisco House at the Olympic Park.


Life is for living.

Posted from my Samsung Galaxy S3 courtesy of Cisco WiFi.

datacentre End User

photos from the surreal world of a CTO

Monty Python has nothing on thisThe smartphoneanonymous guest at Stapleford Park Hotel revolution continues. Probably the biggest single game changer has been  the incorporation of the digital camera. We all have memories  of photos taken during major world events, the Arab spring, the London riots and no doubt the coming London Olympics.

the two alternative forms of transport at the Stapleford Park HotelPhotos of the mundane can be just as interesting and unexpected. I offer here some shots from an average week at the Timico coal face. I’ve omitted some of the more exciting pics because wanted to give you a real feel for day to day work at a business ISP.back on the Monty Python theme

I’ve left out any shot containing the datacentre or the 24×7 NOC because these have so much coverage of late that I have a feeling people want to see other aspects of the job.

The Little Drummer Boy grows upAlso there is no point here in mentioning the fact that we won an ITSPA Award because I did that in this post and Vint Cerf is covered here.

So there you go. It isn’t a glamorous life but somebody has to tread that mill. The hotel, Stapleford Park, might want to get an expert in to sort out the damp that is clearly visible on that drum.

I don’t always get to stay at this type of hotel – sometimes they are fully booked  and I end up staying at the Kings Cross Travelodge as I did last night. There is a story behind that which  I will share with you next week1but you can picture the scene – living like a duke one day and being woken up by incessant noise of tube trains and the beep of reversing lorries the next. I’ll also be posting about some of the content of the #Timico2012 customer conference. V interesting stuff from Cisco, and O2 in particular.

That’s all folks.

1 I know, I know I’m such a tease.

Cloud Engineer servers

What will you do if you die before me?

note that came with Cisco UCS chassis

If I die before u i gonna write your name on the twinkling stars to show the world how much i love u

I could just leave it at that but I’m sure you want to know more.  This was a note found in a Cisco UCS  chassis when it was delivered to the new Timico data centre in Newark. Funny  huh?!

Well with the same shipment came a UCS B200 blade that was DOA (Dead On Arrival).  Not so funny huh? Fortunately BT iNet replaced it with another in short order – well done BT iNet.

I would expect there is an investigation under way at Cisco. It is too much of a coincidence for it to be accidental.

It takes me back to my time in the semiconductor industry where chip designers used to leave little messages etched in metal in spare areas of silicon. One guy I know, who shall remain nameless, etched “live fast die young”. This was only discovered after they made the chip. Unfortunately it was on a high reliability product expected to last a very long time. They had to redo the metal mask. Expensive.

Being intelligent enough to hold down a job as a semiconductor designer he did get his grammar and spelling right unlike whoever wrote this note:)

I do quite like the idea of writing things in the stars though. The concept is doable. You just have to blank out the stars that you don’t want to appear in the writing. I leave it to you to decide how you go about doing that (micro-managing ain’t my thing).

The message would only be viewable from a certain footprint on earth but I’m assuming here that it is intended for a loved one whose location would be known to you. Let us know.  When you’re dead you can do anything, or not as the case may be.

If I were you I’d forget about it, live long and enjoy it while you can 🙂

Cloud Engineer servers

Cisco UCS B200 blade server with 96Gigs of RAM #itsoktogetexcited

Cisco UCS B200 blade serverIf you have ever stood in PC World and wondered whether to Cisco UCS B200 blade server
go for the the 4Gigs of RAM with 1Terabyte hard drive or the 6 Gigs which is a little bit more expensive then cop this baby.

Personally I opted for the 96Gig of RAM with dual 10 Terabyte hard drive (expandable) and dual 6 core Xeon processors.  You get my drift?

We have ten of these in two chasses of 5 just to get going. Note the Cisco UCS B200 blade server does come with two onboard hard drives but the discerning host will of course ignore these if he is at all interested in MTBF. Everything else on the board is solid state.
Cisco UCS B200 server blade in a chassis at the Timico Newark data centre

The next picture is of the chassis front and back.

Front view just has the one blade in it at the time the picture was taken.

You can see the four power supplies (N+2) in a line below the blade (circled on the larger photo – click to see). The last two photos are the rear of the chassis fully populated with fans – cool I thought ( 🙂 ) and the schematic that is printed on top of each blade – it will interest someone.

I think these fans in the back of the Cisco UCS B200 blade server chassis at the Timico Newark data centre look really cool :)schematic diag of Cisco UCS B200 blade server t the Timico Newark Data centre

Cloud datacentre Engineer virtualisation

We are in! – new Timico datacentre

Cisco blades are being used at the new Timico data centre in NewarkAt 10am this morning, 28th November 2011 we officially took delivery
Timico development engineers review progress so far at the new Data centre of a datacentre. Not quite the same impact as the ceremony that ended the first world war (10th hour of the 28th day doesn’t sound quite the same as 11th hour of the 11th day) but hey…

I’m not even sure there was a physical ceremony. If there was I wasn’t there but the new build is certainly buzzing with engineers doing their stuff.
EMC storage now in situ at new Timico data centre

Progress is going to be rapid now with the official launch/opening ceremony due on Wednesday 18th January. The box on the right is one of the EMC SANs I showed being delivered on Friday.

The initial environment will have Juniper in the core network with VMware running over Cisco Nexus and EMC. I’ll post more detail on this as we get nearer launch though if you urgently want to know more drop me a line at [email protected].

Timico is using Juniper in the core network of its new data centre in Newark

Cloud datacentre Engineer

In 2014 the Market for Cloud Equipment Will Double its 2009 Tally

Cloud Equipment Market Will Grow From $110Bn in 2009 to $217Bn in 2014.

2009, according to a Cisco sponsored report by Forrester Research Inc, saw a significant uplift of sales of equipment into the cloud services sector despite the global recession. Figures show significantly greater growth in equipment sales that support next generation managed services as opposed to traditional Customer Premises Equipment.

2009 market growth

Their forecast for this market is that sales will grow from $110Bn in 2009 to $217Bn in 2014, a CAGR of 15%. It is all very exciting, I guess, unless that is you are stuck selling on premises equipment in which case you probably need to start thinking of career alternatives.

This information came from the Cisco Managed services seminar at the Tower of London last week. What struck me was the huge number of elements that make up the big cloud services picture. I counted 62 different technology areas that Cisco claim make up the whole market. These include areas such as Computing as a Service, Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service and Software as a Service. The range is mind boggling.

This isn’t something that an ISP can undertake on a broad scale, at least not during the initial development stages of this market. You have to cherry pick your offerings.

Forrester have segmented the market into Unified Comms, Metro Ethernet, Security, Managed VPN (MPLS I assume) and Data Center . This may help. Timico plays in all these market segments to greater or lesser degrees which is somewhat reassuring.

In my mind you have to ignore the buzzwords and get on with satisfying what your customers need. In many cases customers will already have a good idea but there will be many more looking for guidance.

The case for Virtualization, which is a big part of the infrastructure play when it comes to talking about managed services and the cloud, is very strong.

I looked at one specific example of a company that had 217 machines/servers occupying 9 racks. On average each server has 500GB of storage (an assumption on my part but a reasonable one) but a memory utilisation of only 30 – 40%. That’s a usage of only 43TB out of a total available of 108TB (plenty of rounding here).

If this server estate could be distilled onto a robust Storage Area Network that represents a huge potential cost saving, just taking disk space into consideration. More memory is saved because these systems typically recognise which operating systems are being used by the Virtual Machines and do not replicate multiple instances of such software.

What’s more aggregated processing power = better individual VM performance. In other words the processor capacity available to any single machine is far greater than it previously had access to on a single server. This inevitably results in performance efficiencies. The bandwidth story is the same. An individual stand alone server is likely to be served by a maximum of 1Gbps whereas a VM will probably get 10Gbps.

The example I looked at will result in 217 VMs on single 8U blade centre with a capacity 32 servers though we won’t need all 32 for this specific customer.

As Cisco has suggested the market is undergoing a big change right now. One that requires significant investment in infrastructure. I suspect that many familiar names will fail to make it through. It will be interesting to see who emerges into the clear skies beyond the cloud 🙂

Charts are courtesy of Cisco with Data from Forrester Research Inc.

Engineer internet surveillance & privacy

classy chassis

I mentioned in my post re lobbying and the Digital Economy Act (DEAct) that he internet was a boring nuts and bolts game without the sexiness of the music industry.

Well coincidentally I have just taken delivery of some new kit – we are continually updating our network. The picture below tells it all.  The box, known as a 7606 chassis, is what we plug in the routers and line cards that run our connections to the internet.

It might look boring but engineers can get really excited about these things – at least at what is going into the box. The 7606 chassis itself is just

Business internet mobile connectivity voip

Orange HD voice – when will the whole world go HD?

Mobile operator Orange has hit the headlines today with the launch of its HD voice service. Trials for this service, which uses the Adaptive Multi-Rate Wideband codec (AMR-WB – otherwise known as  G722.2), began in June this year in the south of England.

The service is initially only for Orange HD handset to Orange HD handset.  This is quite easy to do as “on-net” HD calls using the same codec don’t require transcoding and also do not therefore enter into the black art world of interoperability. 

HD voice has been the subject of discussion amongst the VoIP community in the UK this year.  A fair few vendors

Engineer internet

HD voice workshop London #HDvoice

I’m chairing a High Definition Voice Workshop in London on 27th April if anyone is interested in coming along.

The workshop is being organised by the Internet Telephony Service Providers’ Association and will be held at their premises at 111 Buckingham Palace Road, starting at 2.30.

broadband Engineer internet media piracy Regs video

Cisco Drives Nail in Music Industry Coffin with CRS-3?

Most people won’t have given much thought as to how their email gets from A to B or how that video arrives from YouTube.  It just comes down the broadband connection which is plugged into the router next to the phone (or somewhere like that). Right?

Well today the worlds biggest router manufacturer, Cisco, announced their latest and greatest product.  It isn’t something that you will want to plug into your phone line though because it would take up most of the living room and there wouldn’t be enough room left for the sofa.

It would also be a bit of an overkill because this router, the CRS-3, is powerful enough to handle up to 322 Terabits1 per second, which  is roughly a hundred million times faster than the average UK broadband connection speed!

broadband Business internet

Britain is 25th in Oxford University Global Broadband League Table

Britain is 25th in the global broadband league table according to a Cisco sponsored study performed by Oxford University’s Said Business School. This was one of the headlines that woke me up whilst listening to BBC Radio 4 this morning.

That in itself should be a spur for the UK to get its act together. For the BBC interview, however, Oxford University could have fielded someone  a little more conversant in the issues. The study itself, seen online,  looks to be purely factual but University don Alastair Nicholson seemed to to think that this lowly ranking was not a problem and that our broadband network was perfectly suited to our present needs.

Although this initially incensed me I’ve calmed down now.  Alastair Nicholson, as an academic overseer of some MBA students,  probably has little exposure to the dynamics of a high technology fuelled economy.  He didn’t do the country a favour though by suggesting that the hype surrounding the Digital Britain debate was partly pride and not driven by the absolute need to have faster and more ubiquitous broadband.

He is just wrong. This is extremely short sighted. Build the motorway and the traffic will come. The act of building this information superhighway will create the jobs that will help to dig our way out of recession.

Business engineering

Cisco on acquisition trail

I see that Cisco is notionally on the acquisition trail which doesn’t come as a surprise.  It is a good time to be cash rich.

It wouldn’t surprise me either to find out that Cisco has been sniffing around the Nortel Carrier Division.  It would be a great fit.  I don’t think it will be too long before we find out.

We haven’t really seen consolidation happen on the big scale in the tech world yet this turndown.  Timico has picked up some ADSL customers from defunct ISPs and may yet pick up a business or two.

Tiscali has been trying to be “consolidated” for a while now but is struggling to make it happen!  It should only be a matter of time one way or another.

Engineer internet voip

IETF 74 and SIP

10 years ago this month saw the publication of RFC2543 which was the first proposed version of the SIP standard that is now used an almost all internet telephony services.

This is being celebrated this week at IETF74.  The Internet Engineerng Task Force is the body that maintains standards  for internet related technologies.

SIP was initially championed by a small number of people that included it’s inventor Henning Schulzrinne, Jonathan Rosenberg, Jiri Kuthan, Henry Sinnreich et al.

At around that time I was being asked by my then employer Mitel to set up a product line that was based on open standards.  There was quite a choice to chose from.

MGCP was adopted by the cable community in the USA and by a number of ITSPs.  However the problem with MGCP was that it had a relatively small feature set which meant that service providers had to develop their own extensions to provide saleable services.  Thie meant that MGCP quickly became non standard as any venbdor would have to support multiple flavours of the protocol.

Then there was SGCP, or skinny. This was a Cisco proprietary protocol.  Whilst potentially this had initially the largest market opportunity it did tie you into Cisco.

So SIP was the obvious one but it took a long time for the market to appear, particularly as the turmoil around 9/11 hit the dot com intustry.

I spent 4 years service on the board of the SIP Forum from around this time.  Being around during the early days of a technological revolution was exciting and I am fortunate enough, with Timico, to be able to continue the ride.

Check out the Facebook event surrounding this anniversay here.

Engineer internet

The Internet Protocol Journal

Geeks are a great breed and I am pleased to say our NetOps team is 100% staffed by them.  They are a real asset to our business.

If you ever want to test whether someone is a geek or not you have to see what reading material they take to the “smallest room” . 

At the Timico NOC there are copies of Cisco’s “The Internet Protocol Journal” left there to ensure optimum use of time.

The journal also provides the facility with an N+N level of resiliency making it a Tier 4 toilet.  I’m pleased to say we have never had to resort to a failover.  Read on!

broadband Business internet ofcom

Cisco CEO John Chambers on Broadband

Hot on the trail of yesterday’s post on the Ofcom decision to waive regulations on the roll out of fibre to homes in the UK Cisco CEO John Chambers has written a guest post on Om Malik’s blog on a similar subject.

I had thought that the Obama stimulus package, which contains a substantial sum of money targeted at broadband roll out, was aimed at standard broadband speeds but it looks as if this is not correct.

It does make you wonder whether the government here in the UK will now look to subsidising the £29Bn it is estimated it will cost to get universal fibre coverage in this country.

Business voip

"Unified Communications" is dead on its feet

As 2009 evolves it is becoming much clearer where the world of Unified Communications is going. UC has always meant different things to different peopleYesterday I saw it move on with the Twitter coverage of SocComm.

What is now becoming obvious that we are moving to a world where everything interoperates with everything else.  A bit of a generalisation and very dramatic I know but anyone expecting to be a player in communications markets in the future needs to have an open approach to doing business.

So vendors traditionally associated with fairly closed UC plays, such as Nortel, Cisco and Microsoft need to make it easy to integrate their tools with new kids on the block such as Facebook and Twitter. They are all moving towards this slowly. Timico is in the middle of a major platform upgrade with its Nortel UC capability and the new offering will optionally enable Instant Messaging with other networks such as MSN, jabber, yahoo etc. 

It is only a short hop then to see Nortel soft clients embedded in Facebook (they already do this with traditional business tools such as Outlook and Lotus Notes),  Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds embedded in corporate websites and vice versa and wall posts embedded wherever you care to embed them (plasma display on the fridge?!).

There was a time when I thought that the world of UC would be dominated by a few giant players. Now, we are seeing that new companies can  easily develop applications that sit well with existing systems.  2009 is looking like a year of accelerated integration and I think that the phrase Unified Communications is already dead on it’s feet because I don’t think it adequately describes what is actually happening.

Business voip

“Unified Communications” is dead on its feet

As 2009 evolves it is becoming much clearer where the world of Unified Communications is going. UC has always meant different things to different peopleYesterday I saw it move on with the Twitter coverage of SocComm.

What is now becoming obvious that we are moving to a world where everything interoperates with everything else.  A bit of a generalisation and very dramatic I know but anyone expecting to be a player in communications markets in the future needs to have an open approach to doing business.

So vendors traditionally associated with fairly closed UC plays, such as Nortel, Cisco and Microsoft need to make it easy to integrate their tools with new kids on the block such as Facebook and Twitter. They are all moving towards this slowly. Timico is in the middle of a major platform upgrade with its Nortel UC capability and the new offering will optionally enable Instant Messaging with other networks such as MSN, jabber, yahoo etc. 

It is only a short hop then to see Nortel soft clients embedded in Facebook (they already do this with traditional business tools such as Outlook and Lotus Notes),  Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds embedded in corporate websites and vice versa and wall posts embedded wherever you care to embed them (plasma display on the fridge?!).

There was a time when I thought that the world of UC would be dominated by a few giant players. Now, we are seeing that new companies can  easily develop applications that sit well with existing systems.  2009 is looking like a year of accelerated integration and I think that the phrase Unified Communications is already dead on it’s feet because I don’t think it adequately describes what is actually happening.

Engineer engineering

How can you make exams exciting?!

I never thought I would get excited by the prospect of an exam. I am at the moment though but I have to confess it is not me taking the exams. When my 16 year old took his GCSEs last summer I think I was more nervous than he was.

This time my nerves are rock steady as 12 Timico engineers are lining up to sit their Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNAs) exams. It is exciting because I can see the guys’ knowledge and skillset  improving almost daily as they put in the effort to prepare for the exams.

At the end of it all I’m hoping that we will end up with 12 more members of staff with their foot on the first rung of the professional engineering career ladder. I’m determined to be able to take regular afternoons off to play golf and this is all part of the process of getting  me there. I don’t expect these engineers to have time to play any golf though.

PS congratulations to Mark Chennell of Timico subsidiary KeConnect who passed his CCNA last week. He is a good guy.

PPS good luck to the others.

Engineer engineering

CCNA Bootcamp

A good way to finish the week. I discussed the importance of training last week. Well this week the lucky members of the team did the CCNA Bootcamp training provided by Global Knowledge. I have to say the quality of the training was top notch and we couldn’t have asked for a better tutor in Brad Bradeepan. 

It wasn’t an easy ride. We are talking 8.30 am to around 7pm most days with studying to do back in their rooms afterwards and only 30 minutes break for lunch. Today, Friday they finished at 4pm. I’m a generous boss 🙂 .

I was impressed with the amount of information that they had to cover in the week. There was also a lot of subnet theory that had to be worked out manually. In the real world nowadays this is done by machines but it is a good discipline to have to properly understand the basics of networking. The Cisco CCNA, although it is the first step on the Cisco networking ladder, is not intended to be an easy qualification to achieve.

The exams now have to be taken before 14th February and there will be a lot of revision, and indeed hands on practice, to be done between now and then. We have a lab set up in each Timico Group location to help with this.

Photo below is the team with trainer Brad in the middle and me to his right.


This next photo shows them hard at work.


Business engineering

Train your way out of a recession

I forget whether the UK is officially in an economic recession yet. There is so much talk in the news that it is difficult to see the wood from the trees. What is true is that recession or not the market in which we operate is fast moving and whilst we are currently getting bombarded with hard luck stories this must be looked upon as a real opportunity.

This is why next week one third of Timico’s engineering resource will be going on training courses. A dozen of them will be at it for five full days on a Cisco bootcamp held at Timico’s HQ in Newark. Others will be attending SMB specialisation courses. 

This is a serious investment which we are making early in the year to get the biggest bang for our bucks in 2009. Moreover it is a statement of intent.

It tells our staff that we believe in them enough to invest in their future. It tells our technology partners that we are a business worth investing their time into and finally, it sends out a signal to our customers and potential customers that our workforce is prepared in the best way possible to serve their needs.

I can’t forecast what is going to happen in 2009 but I can say that we are planning to succeed.

Business engineering

IT Housekeeping Over The Christmas Break

If you happen to be working over the Christmas Holiday period, as am I, it is a fairly quiet time. Not many phones ringing. It might be stating the blatantly obvious but there are a few housekeeping type jobs you can get on with.

  1. Tidy up your directory structures – all the rubbish that has been accumulating on your desktop – bin it or file it. You might even want to change your PC’s wallpaper 🙂 .
  2. Following on from that, if you haven’t got one get your backup strategy sorted out and do some backing up.
  3. Get your firmware upgrades done – any Microsoft security patches, if they aren’t done automatically & rolling firmware upgrades on your Cisco routers.
  4. Finish off all the biscuits and chocolates left around the office from before Christmas.
  5. Renew your gym membership.

The last point is optional and the one before that inevitable, I know. Also I wouldn’t bother with any New Year Resolutions. They have never worked for me.

Business UC voip

Timico Strikes Gold At ITSPA Awards

I’m thrilled to report that Timico won the Best Unified ITSP at the ITSPA Awards at the House of Commons last night. This was for an ITSP who is also an ISP. It’s an exciting finish to what has been a very exciting year for us and is the icing on the cake after the 4th place in the Sunday Times Techtrack.

The event was jointly hosted by MPs Ian Taylor and Derek Wyatt, Chair of the All Party Communications Group and took place in the salubrious surroundings of the Members Dining Room at the House of Commons.

Other winners were BT for the consumer award, for the business ITSP, AQL for innovation, and Cisco for best hardware.

The Cisco win is also significant because Timico Group company KeConnect is Cisco’s partner of choice for SIP trunks and this provides a nice filip for the partnership going into the new year.

Finally the VoIP personality award was won by Eli Katz for his tireless service to the industry since founding ITSPA four years ago. This came as a total surprise to him as we had decided at the Council meeting not to have this category 🙂

Once I get hold of some photos I’ll do another post – I know how you are all dying to see them.

broadband Business

Broadband Technology: Bonded ADSL Solutions — Shareband

Over the last couple of years we have been testing Shareband, a broadband technology solution for bonding ADSL lines together. In theory, if you use 4 ADSLs you can get 4 times the speed of a single connection.

Of course this type of broadband solution has been available for years using Cisco equipment and multi-link technology. In practice, however, the installation costs have been expensive because it relies on high end 1800 and 2800 series Cisco equipment.

Where Shareband is different is that it uses low cost routers. It is also possible to use ADSL connections from multiple broadband technology providers, which offers a resilience story that isn’t necessarily available with the traditional multilink solution.

Whilst in practice it is unlikely that installations get the full theoretical aggregate speed performance, the results are still pretty good. Certainly much better than a single ADSL. This is important for users that are a long way from their local exchange, as Shareband may be their only solution for an adequate broadband technology service.

The Shareband service is now considered to be a production service having been tested at around 40 customers. It has been rolled out by Timico subsidiary KeConnect.

Business fun stuff

A day in the life

Life is rich. If yours isn’t you should seriously think about doing something about it. I was wondering what to write about today out of the many things that are going on. In the end I thought I’d just rattle off a list of things I was involved in during the day because I believe it illustrates the point of those opening three words.

Got in and made a cup of tea. Then spent time discussing a contract we are about to sign with BT. Checked up on progress of our 21CN trial orders. Sat with tech support discussing a Virtual Machine project we are looking at. Discussions with our new Business Development Director who starts in January (more on him in due course I’m sure). Meeting with Cisco to discuss marketing plans for the Cisco Small Business portfolio for 2009. Lunch with Cisco. Meeting with Nortel to discuss hosted VoIP propositions. Drop Nortel off at station. Arrange tech meeting to discuss SPAM strategy for 2009. Conference call with VoIP Operations Manager to discuss specific customer technical issue. Home to take kids to cubs. Catch up chat with CEO. Go to school prize giving evening (son Tom won prize for English  and yes of course I am proud of him). Chat with headmaster congratulating him on chosing son as prizewinner. Home. Kiss wife. Do emails and write blog post.

Tomorrow is another day, another blog post. Friday is a day off to take the kids to the Lincoln Christmas Market. Check it out here. They get hundreds of thousands of visitors each year (or so I’m told). We live slap bang in the middle of the action so it is difficult to ignore. One of the kids’ school shuts down for the duration because access to it is impossible. The parents run a cafe which raises around £10,000 each year for the school PTA funds. Thats one heck of a lot of teas and coffees at a pound each. 

Business internet

Cisco SMB Marketing Day

I went to a Cisco Business Solutions Workshop today. It was aimed at the Small and Medium sized Business market and Cisco were expecting around 400 resellers to be in attendance. Considering the event was held at the Vauxhall Vehicle test track in Millbrook with test drives on offer I think the turnout was quite high.

Cisco certainly know their stuff when it comes to marketing. Much of the event was marketing oriented. The equipment vendor is going after the SMB market in a big way. 2009 is what they call a transition year where they will be getting their product mix right. In 2010 and 2011 they then expect a big push to gain market share.

You have to look at the market numbers to understand why they are doing this. The Cisco share in the Service Provider and Enterprise markets is quite high. However in the SMB space it is a different story

Business size              Global TAM            Cisco Share

<250 pers                   $15.9Bn                 <$300m

<100 pers                   $9.9Bn                   <$100m

The source is Cisco and although the numbers might be broad brush it is easy to see why the company sees the SMB market as a huge opportunity. Next year they are planning to spend $100m on marketing specific to this sector.

This market opportunity also has upsides with sales of additional services such as Webex and video conferencing thrown into the mix.

In fact it seems to me the biggest challenge for many in this industry is how to migrate to a services oriented business model. As a Communications Service Provider Timico is already doing it. However if you earn your living selling and installing hardware your mix is going to have to change.

The cost of hardware solutions is plummeting and it won’t be long before it is thrown in free everytime someone signs up for an installation and ongoing maintenance programme. We were told that the world GDP is in the region of £12Trillion and over the next 5 years 25% of this is going to be based on managed services (Cisco’s numbers not mine).

As the world enters an economic downturn it is worth noting that during past such periods SMBs have been the first to recover and start spending again. I certainly wouldn’t bet against Cisco succeeding in this market.