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> Redundant backbone links: Your opinion requested
andy
Posted: Dec 9 2005, 04:26 PM
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Group: Advantagecom Staff
Posts: 4,340
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Joined: 12-July 02



Hello everyone,

I'd love to get some feedback on this from you, our customers, since it has the potential to impact your opinion of this company.

We're in the final stages of evaluating our options for redundant backbone connectivity.

We were ready to sign a contract yesterday, but suddenly we had some new very attractive options to consider that were not previously available.

Basically we've narrowed this down to two final candidates. Skip down to near the bottom for the condensed version.

Candidate 1: Charter Business Networks
The Good
  • offers a redundant fiber optic path to our building that takes a completely different route
  • it would be a gigabit ethernet (1000Mbits/sec) feed to our building with a 100Mbit ethernet handoff (plenty of room to grow for the foreseeable future)
  • they are a subsidiary of one of the largest broadband Internet service providers for residential customers in the United States
The Bad
  • they have a history of being slow to respond to outages
  • their backbone capacity planning sometimes is inadequate (in my opinion)
  • we would initially be limited to 10Mbits/sec capacity due to pricing and limitations of our budget
  • they are a tier two provider and only have two upstream backbone links
  • the cost of additional bandwidth is a little more expensive than our other candidate
Other
  • they wouldn't be our only provider and we already have hardware in place that can transparently reroute traffic if there are ever performance or reliability problems with their network
  • while commonly used by hospitals and schools with large bandwidth needs, they are rarely chosen by hosting companies or colocation facilities for backbone connectivity


Candidate 2: Electric Lightwave (ELI)
The Good
  • offers a solid reputation for good performance and reliability
  • excellent pricing on the initial link and low cost expansion
  • lower overall cost than the other option with double the initial bandwidth for that money
  • 20Mbits/sec initial capacity, twice that of the other option
  • room to grow to 44.2Mbits/sec
  • used by one of the nation's largest Internet Service Providers as their main IP backbone
  • their capacity planning is comprehensive
  • as a tier one provider, they have hundreds of paths to the rest of the Internet that are geographically dispersed throughout the United States allowing for more optimal routing of data
  • their headquarters, NOC, and point-of-presence that we connect to are all in the same time zone as us allowing for easier outage resolutions
The Bad
  • their financial history is spotty, though they are now owned by a profitable parent company
  • the link would come in over our existing fiber, leaving that fiber as a potential point for total network failure
  • adding additional capacity above 44.2Mbits/sec would require a one to two month lead time to allow for design, engineering, and installation
Other
  • Though we wouldn't have a redundant fiber path, it is important to note that our existing fiber runs in "protect mode" with redundant fiber strands within the same cable and redundant optical switching. That setup has resulted in 100% uptime of our fiber connection (really - the fiber to our building has never had a service affecting outage) over the four years it has been in service. A full cable cut is possible and it would take down any service using that fiber until it was repaired, but a fiber cut is not at all common.
To sum it up, we're faced with choosing a company with a spotty reliability record that gets us a redundant fiber feed or choosing a company with a solid reliability record that would use existing fiber, give us twice the bandwidth, and a lower overall cost. Of course, the trade-off is a by-product of a smaller-than-we'd-like backbone connectivity budget, otherwise we'd choose both. It should be noted that in either case, the provider would only be one of two providers. In this post, we've not mentioned our already existing connectivity - only what we might add.

All of the staff here are in agreement that the backbone company reliability is more important than having a second fiber feed to our building.

Which do you think is more important?


--------------------
Sincerely,
Andrew Kinney
CTO, Advantagecom Networks

Please do not private message me. My regular management duties preclude responding to every customer that sends me a support issue. Instead, post on the forum or contact tech support.
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gleeloyd
Posted: Dec 23 2005, 05:57 AM
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I sufferered several days of downtime once due to a cable cut outside a COLO facility in Dallas. As attractive as Candidate 2 looks, I would have to give a slight edge to Charter purely on the basis of having a seperate feed. Either way, I will be a happy camper. I took a beating over the recent outtage. It was my fault that I missed your July 14 posting on this topic. I've been telling my customers they have redundancy all along and so it was embarrasing to admit the outtage was due to a lack of redundancy.


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Gary
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Fest3er
Posted: Feb 21 2006, 09:19 PM
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I'm a little late in weighing in, but I'll pitch in my tuppence.

If an outage (fibre cut) only affects cash flows and commerce, and not lives, a redundant path is not as much a must-have. Granted, as a business you *want* it for your customers, but it isn't *truly* mandatory.

If I were given a choice, I'd pick Lightwave. Their financial history isn't too much of a concern, because it's not our business. It's their history of reliability and customer service that matters most. If there's an outage, you know they'll be on it, just like y'all are atop server outages. If the fibre gets cut, I'm sure they'll be pressing for immediate repair from their end, just as you'll be pressing from your end. With today's tools, I would expect a 50-pair bundle to be patched, spliced and completely repaired in 4 hours. I'd also expect temporary patches to be made within a half hour. And, as you said, there's never been a cut; due diligence will keep it that way. That said, do you have a reflectometer on hand? If you do lose service, you could tell them PDQ how far away the cut is. smile.gif

I'd pick reliable service and can-do attitude over a redundant path. IIRC, your upstream providers have cause you more outages than your fiber has. smile.gif

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andy
Posted: Feb 21 2006, 09:51 PM
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Group: Advantagecom Staff
Posts: 4,340
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Joined: 12-July 02



QUOTE
If an outage (fibre cut) only affects cash flows and commerce, and not lives, a redundant path is not as much a must-have. Granted, as a business you *want* it for your customers, but it isn't *truly* mandatory.


As far as we know, no lives are at stake on our services, though we do host a muscular distrophy site that many people rely on to carry out tasks essential to their daily lives. During an outage, though, you'd think some people were near death for the calls we get. blush.gif

QUOTE
If I were given a choice, I'd pick Lightwave.


We did. Good pick. It should be installed any day now.

QUOTE
your upstream providers have cause you more outages than your fiber has.


Definitely. Nearly every outage we've had has been due to equipment failure at our facility or on our upstream provider's network. We're setup now to automatically route around the most common equipment failures within our network which has already made 4 internal outages invisible to our customers since we implemented it a few months ago. We can't say the same for our upstream provider, which is why we have to have a second upstream provider.

The last fiber outage that affected us in any way was in 1998 or 1999 (don't remember for sure) before we moved our servers in-house from PSINet. There is no way to know for sure if that fiber cut would have affected the data services we use today, but it did prevent any inbound or outbound long distance telephone calls to or from our area, which was quite frustrating at the time. Fortunately we were still able to use email for communication with our customers. That lasted for about 8 hours because the repair crews had to wait for fire crews to give them the 'ok' to drive to the location. The fiber was cut by a backhoe digging a fireline to stop a forest fire about 200 miles from here. In fact, now that I think about it, that fiber cut would not have affected either of our providers because they both use fiber that takes a different path than the one that was cut.


--------------------
Sincerely,
Andrew Kinney
CTO, Advantagecom Networks

Please do not private message me. My regular management duties preclude responding to every customer that sends me a support issue. Instead, post on the forum or contact tech support.
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