Posts Tagged 'BT'

BT DSL outage

I’m sure many of you were affected in one way or another by the recent DSL outage, caused by the North Paddington exchange. The latest is that from BT is that water got into the exchange, starting an electrical fire, which was put out by more water, causing a flood in the basement.

The above picture is an example of the severity of the situation. However I really must praise the sterling work of BT in not only working around the clock to rectify the issue, but also in notifying their customers using Social Media. Their twitter stream (@BTcare) was a hive of activity all day, and was backed up by their status blog depicting progress. In fact the above picture comes from their own Flickr stream. Info was then compounded upon by key clients, such as Gradwell (@gradwelltweets), who posted a list of exchanges that were affected (some 437!)

Although many of us in the industry view BT as a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to embracing change, they really are showing us all how best to adopt and embrace new media. And although they have been tripped up by their BTcare account more than once, these mishaps will inevitably help them create a more fulfilling user experience. The whole episode also helps to shoecase how Twitter, blogs and other social media devices, when used in the right way, can really enhance the way a business can communicate with it’s community. We can all learn a thing of two from BT.

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BE vs BT

Not wanting to turn this blog into a long sales pitch. However I recently came across a video showing the performance of a BT line against a BE line. Although it’s not a like for like test (the BE line being an Annex M and the BT line being an ADSL Max), it still shows the level of throttling that occurs within BT’s core network at peak times.

To Infinity and beyond?

Fibre to the Cabinet

Well the trials have finished and amid all the fanfare, BT have officially launched their brand new FTTC service, providing up to 40Mbps down and up to 10Mbps up. Named BT Infinity (surely ironic) this promises to be quite a compelling offering for both domestic and business users hoping to adopt applications that require a large amount of bandwidth to be transferred across the last mile.

Now I’ll be honest in saying that I’m not the biggest fan of BT. However they deserve praise in being fairly quick to market with this. BT retail pricing seems competitive against the main competiton (being Virgin Media’s 50Mb service) whilst although geographic penetration is very limited, there are already over 100 enabled for the service, with quite a few exchanges planned for roll out. However saying that, there are still a few things that deeply concern me about the service.

Firstly it’s key to remember that essentially Infinity is a VDSL based service, meaning that BT will rely on their copper infrastructure from their local cabinets. This means that end user sync rates are still determined by the same factors that determine DSL. However even more important to note are their roll out plans for cabinets attached to exchanges, as even thought BT say they’re to enable a certain exchange for FTTC, it does not mean that they will enable all cabinets associated to that exchange. There are already stories of certain exchanges enabled where only half of the cabinets will be able to provide the service. Not good

Secondly it will be interesting to see how the underlying bandwidth is managed. It’s a well known fact that 21CN has been having some well documented congestion issues, and there is little doubt that Infinity will not help if BT can’t sort out the current issues that the’re already having. Infinity can only have a larger drain than the current access methods used. BT have gone some way to negate this being an issue, by deploying the same usage policies applied with thier ADSL2+ sericves. For the consumer, this has the added threat of reaching your limit faster than previously, due to having the ability to download a lot more.

Thirdly as expected, this will have very little impact on those in the not-spot areas around the country, as BT only plan to enable current market 3 exchanges. Therefore it won’t make major inroads into the USC set within the Digital Britain report. Further woe for those in rural areas.

However from my perspective, the main thing to take away from this is the fact that we are starting the process in moving away from copper in the last mile to fibre. This move will be painful for most, as we discuss the most viable ways to deploy it whilst making the end user propositions cost effective. However as it is used more and more within certain political party manifesto’s, it is sure to become a bigger plane for debate within various wide ranging communities. Hopefully this will mean more wide ranging action.

The advent of Cloud Computing…

Partial map of the Internet based on the Janua...
Image via Wikipedia

Working for an Internet Service Provider, it is imperative we understand the requirements of our clients. Why do they need low contention? How is resilience going to benefit them? Why are they trying to reduce their Capex? These are all issues that are prevalent in this day and age, as IT Managers/Directors try and increase the efficiency of their WAN solutions without exploding their budget. One method of doing just that, which I feel will be a big market for ISP’s in 2009 is the general shift to Cloud Computing.

First of, what is Cloud Computing? Well there are various definitions of it, however, generally it is the means by which an individual or company moves their IT portfolio into the cloud. Why cloud? Well if you’re an old-school comms person, then the ‘cloud’ was the symbol which denotes the Internet. Another term for Cloud Computing is virtualisation, as you are moving into a virtual environment. Now the term itself is extremely general, as already there are many different ‘versions’ of cloud computing. The Register recently ran a workshop, where they broke down cloud computing into more specific areas; software as a service, utility computing and onlin

e platform provision. All offering different services to the end user within the cloud.

Lets not kid ourselves. Virtualisation has been around for years in various guises. However, its popularity is suddenly beginning to rise as internet users require more bandwidth, security and processing power. However, how does this effect ISP’s?

As more and more companies move to hosted environments, it becomes more and more imperative that they have robust stable connectivity to be able to access their business critical applications 24/7. This can be shown in the rise in attractiveness of virtual network operators and the use in data centres. One method of connectivity that is becoming more attractive to end users is Leased lines via fibre, which is markedly cheaper than it was a few years ago. However, still there are lengthy time delays, spiralling hidden costs and complicated installs associated with true leased lines. So what is the solution?

Step forward ADSL2+. Although BT has been traditionally late to the party with their deployment, many incumbents such as O2/Be, Tiscali and Cable and Wireless have been offering ADSL2+ products for the best part of 3 years. And although BT are finally getting their act together with the roll out of their 21CN, many operators have already got such a head start with the diversity of their product portfolios that it will be hard for BT to catch up. I don’t usually praise the government, but if there is one thing that we should give them credit for, it is the deregulation of the telecomms industry. As without doubt, the number of innovative solutions now available is testament to that policy change.

Without blowing our own trumpet too much, Fluidata is a prime example. Not only have we been offering ADSL2+ for the best part of 2 years, but we also standardise on the AnnexM variant, meaning more bandwidth on the upstream. Perfect for applications such as video conferencing and VOIP. With national coverage of 1200 exchanges and growing, this already out-does BT’s own 21CN, and by their own admittance, they will not have this number of exchanges ready until at the earliest least 2010. Because of the knowledge and experience we have of using AnnexM, we’ve been able to manipulate it to provide a synchronous solution, comparative to SDSL, but more robust and at a cheaper cost to end users.

However, the area in which we’ve been particularly unique in has been deploying a true bonded solution, comprising carrier resilience, true aggregation at the IP level and low contention. Different from bonded solutions, we’re unique in being able to offer high amounts of bandwidth with 1IP address/range and one termination unit, unlike others who provide up to 4 routers and then a bonding ‘device’. This has proved to be ideal for people who need the functionality of a leased line without the costs involved. Also ideal for FD’s who need to reduce their Capex. And more importantly, it has proved to be very attractive for those looking to move into the cloud.

There are still a number of issues that fully need to be addressed with Cloud Computing. Will my data be secure? How will I be invoiced for it? How much control will I have over the underlying infrastructure? What happens if the DC goes bust? As yet, no one has definite answers for the above, and it may be some time until someone does. However, what can firmly be said is that finally there are a number of cost effective robust solutions, enabling one to connect to a hosted server. And while that underlying structure remains, I am sure that the uptake in virtualisation and Cloud Computing will continue.

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