19 Oct Obstructionists block network routing diversity
Making network infrastructure more reliable in this post 9/11 era should be everyone’s goal, whether they are part of the government, a network carrier, or a business with mission-critical network needs. This endeavor should transcend any petty competitive issue. Having the best network infrastructure globally is a matter of national defense as well as strategic national economic development.
A Chicago start-up company, Neutral Tandem, Inc., has been assembling a separate tandem network that would route calls and be different than the original Bell infrastructure, which has been the backbone of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).
A best practice for today is that you do not want to route all of your traffic over one carrier, so you want route diversity as well as carrier diversity to maintain the highest standards of reliability and redundancy. These are standard concepts for network design that you would think everyone would embrace. Evidently, there are still some carriers that would rather keep turfs closed over general connectivity and the national interest.
Package traffic versus packet traffic
A good analogy would be to look at what happened when United Parcel Service workers went on strike several years ago. If your organization had everything going out on UPS, it was out of luck. If you split some of that traffic up and sent it on FedEx, you would not have been totally out of commission. Network traffic is no different than package traffic. Having routing diversity and carrier diversity makes for a more robust solution.
Some people figure this out from a strategic planning standpoint and develop guidelines for business continuity in the face of any disaster. The vast majority let the disaster happen, and then try to figure out disaster recovery after the fact.
With the swiftness of today’s business climate, you cannot rely on disaster recovery efforts anymore. Planning ahead, which would include having routing and carrier diversity, is the new rule-of-thumb.
In an earlier column about network infrastructure and connectivity, I put forth the questions about development of new network infrastructures and funding of those initiatives: Who is putting their money where their mouth is?” There are many organizations looking at various solutions for upgrading network infrastructure, and most are in the planning stages. Where is the real investment and implementation presently going on?
Alone among big cell-phone operators, Verizon Wireless objects to linking to Neutral Tandem’s network. Neutral Tandem has taken the matter to the Federal Communications Commission, arguing that Verizon Wireless not only is being anti-competitive, but its stance threatens the nation’s homeland security.
Neutral Tandem’s executive vice president and co-founder, Ron Gavillet, conceived the alternative switching network a few years ago when he realized that tandem switches, which are used by telecom companies to exchange network traffic with each other, were becoming a new bottleneck to the industry.
“Tandem switches were all owned and operated by Bell companies,” said Gavillet, “and they had no incentives to upgrade the switches with new technology because that would primarily benefit their competitors.”
Most telecom traffic has shifted from the traditional wired networks operated by Bell companies, moving first to wireless carriers and more recently also to Internet telephony and voice services operated by cable television providers. But all these newcomers have been dependent on incumbent Bell firms through their tandem switches.
Where are major municipalities?
This is a subject that is spilling over into municipal governments. They are right up in front asking that the FCC take a close look at this. New York City has filed comments with the FCC as well as the City of Chicago. Both cities are concerned with what happens if some disaster occurs. As I have stated in the past, once-in-a lifetime disasters tend to happen every year.
One only has to take a close look at the debacle in New Orleans and Louisiana to understand what happens when communication is cut off for whatever reason, and the agencies and remaining infrastructure are unprepared to handle the results.
Network architectures have to be updated, and it is no small task. Pumping millions, if not billions of dollars to upgrade the network infrastructure of a city, a county, or even a state has to be considered as a given, not a “hoped for” in competing in a global economy. If there is a company willing to step up to do some of this upgrade, why are other incumbents resisting those efforts?
Wireless is not the universal solution, and the total costs of a real network is substantially more than some wireless routers. Basic design concepts that go back to developing the public switched telephone network (PSTN) state that you do not want to put all of your eggs in one basket.
Only the beginning
There will be more people questioning the stubbornness of some carriers that resist improvements on the network infrastructure.
It is encouraging to see there are concerns emanating out of the cities because some are “starting to get it” as the network infrastructure becomes a critical concern as the platform for continuing and expanding commerce.
CARLINI-ISM: Rules-of-thumb sometimes become obsolete.
Copyright 2006 – James Carlini
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