The problem with broadband projects in general

Before Covid I tried to attend as many meetings community leaders and towns had about bringing broadband to their communities. This is what you are supposed to in order to let the leaders know you, or in my case, my clients are there, right? Sometimes I would attend to provide my input as part of giving back to a community.

I have found some similarities in these meetings and workshops. Let’s go over them. If you are a community leader don’t let yourself fall into some of these.

The High-Level view
The high-level view starts out with noble intentions. The leaders want to get broadband to underserved areas. They have not bothered to dig deeper into seeing what is actually in the areas they want to cover. These folks may have called the ISP they have or someone their family has. they don’t actually know which providers service what areas. In their defense it’s not their job to. What they do with these meetings determines if progress is made or not. I have been in meetings where there have been four providers that service the area in question. The leaders say they must do more studies to see who is in the area. You literally have four sitting at your table who can tell you what they service. Take their information, take their maps and progress.

Bedazzled by the incumbent
Typically this person has XYZ Internet at their home and they love it. They love it so much they want it everywhere. This is great, but there are reasons that XYZ Internet is not everywhere. Otherwise, you would not be doing these meetings. Some of this is due to lack of money. Either XYZ Internet does not have enough or the return just is not there. This leader is one of the most hampering of all. I have been in many meetings where the small local company is putting their own money into investing in the community and this type of leader overlooks the small company. They even go as far to suggest the local company help XYZ become bigger in their own service area.

These leaders often invite their beau to these meetings to give their take on broadband in the area. Sometimes these companies are honest and straightforward. Sometimes they paint the picture they are the only ones who can solve the broadband issue.

The “let’s do a study” crowd
Studies are nice. They give you nice graphs, charts, and tons of fluff information about an area. It makes for good reading for those who like to learn about facts. These folks are probably the ones who know the stats of many sports figures, who lived in the prominent houses in the lcoal towns and other facts. They are willing to spend twenty thousand dollars on a piece of paper to get this information. In many instances, sitting down with the right group of people could tell you 90% of the information you need.

Unrealistic goals
Let’s face it, not everyone knows everything about the topic they are trying to address. Being able to provide gigabit to every home is a nice goal, but is hard to achieve. Not everyone needs or wants gigabit. In my county and the surrounding area, there are towns of only three or four houses. Unless lots of government money is involved fiber will not be coming to them anytime soon.

The academic
These are usually the most frustrating for the existing ISP. Terms like focus groups and thirty thousand foot view are thrown around. They are usually applying for some grants or RPF. They already have their goal and possibly the outcome in mind. They are not there to solve issues but to get the “bigger picture”. They may only know broadband from buzzwords. 5G and internet of everything are thrown around alot.

What folks do you see at these meetings? Let me know as we are working on a funny video.

OpenGear Resilience gateway for ISPs

Some quick notes and screenshots from the OpenGear Resilience Gateway https://opengear.com/products/acm7000-resilience-gateway . The model I am working with is the ACM7004-2-L. It has 4 serial Cisco Straight pinout, Dual 1 GbE Ethernet, Global 4G LTE-A Pro cellular, 2 DIO, and 2 output ports.

So what does this thing do and what can it do for you as an ISP? At the basic level, this is a console server with multi wan capability. What this means is when the crap hits the fan you should be able to login to this device across the internet and see what your switches and routers are doing across a console connection. In most ISP scenarios they are bringing in their internet connections from another provider and landing it on a switch or a router. As most followers of this blog know I am a fan of switch-centric based setups. this means your transport and internet connections are landed on a switch or switches and then a router on a stick attaches to these switches.

So why would you need this setup? Not every POP site justifies, or has available multiple transport or internet connections. Imagine you have a switch plugged in and that switch doesn’t come back from a reboot or power event? Without a console server such as this you are driving to the site and plugging in a console cable to see what is going on. With this you can access the device over on of the multiple wan connections, including a cellular connection to gain console access.

Even in redundant setups, a console server can give you insight into what is going on with a router or switch. You can access the console port without ever having to drive. Is the switch booting? Is it getting stuck on a bootloader somewhere? This is all information you can gain from the console port.

Some Screenshots of the Gui. One of the things I like is the dashboard. I am a sucker for dashboards. One reason I am is on any new piece of gear I am reviewing or learning a well thought out dashboard will give me much of the information I need to know. Are my interfaces up? Have VPN connections established? These can help me learn as well as save time troubleshooting

Some interesting notes about the features of this device. It does have environmental status indicators. If you have a device that you can plug into one of the console ports either via USB or rj45 console you can use the gateway to monitor this. Couple this with the Nagios and/or SNMP integration you now have a temperature, door alarm, or other sensors for your remote sites.

View of the back of the unit.

Other notable features include Digital Input and output, remote syslog monitoring, IPSec and OpenVPN, and many other features. If you are deploying lots of these Opengear has a Lighthouse Server for centralized management.

One of the best things I like about this is you are able to access the console server via the web interface. And the best thing? No Java required. This saves from remembering complicated port numbers, for when you ssh and want to access a specific device.

So how am I using this in a network? this device is going at a data center. The client has two cisco switches and two mikrotik routers which will plug into this. It will have an in-band wan connection on a management vlan directly into both routers. If both of these routers are down the gateway has a cellular backup with a IPSEC VPN to a router in a remote data center. You could always switch this up by connecting your second ethernet port into a secondary ISP in the data center. Some networks have a management router where management devices such as this plug into. I have done this with Mikrotik 4011s and it works just fine. I can plug an in-band connection into the mikrotik and a secondary ISP such as a cable or other ISP in the data center.

The cost may discourage some folks. On Amazon, these are just under a thousand dollars. If you need more console ports the price goes up from there. To them, I say what are the costs of downtime and your time. For this client, the closest tech is an hour away. I am two hours away. If a simple firmware or bootloader command fixes a switch not booting and turns 2 hours of minimum downtime into 5 minutes that is a huge win.

Look for a video overview soon.

Preseem and Switches in switch centric design

Anyone who follows me knows I am a big fan of switch centric designs. This usually involves a router on a stick paired with a high port count switch. Recently I had a client that installed a Preseem appliance in their network.

Equipment used in this setup
-Dell R710 with a 4 Port SFP+ card running Preseem
-Cisco 3064-X 48 Port switch
-Maxxwave Vengeance router with dual QSF+ card and 4 Port SFP+ card

A visio diagram of how this looks

We have two transport links coming into the switch on the left. These are dumped into VLANs 506 and 507. We then come out of the switch into the Preseem box via 2 SFP+ ports, one for each VLAN. In this case, we just used DAC cables In the future, we can turn these into trunk ports to pass more VLANS through.

The data then leaves the Preseem box over dual SFP fibers directly into the router’s SFP+ ports. If the Preseem appliance fails we have a secondary OSPF/IBGP path from the router’s 40 GIG QSFP down to the switch. This is a bypass in case the Preseem appliance hardware fails.

If you start flowing more than 10 Gigs through a single link you can upgrade to more SFP+ ports into your appliance and a 40 Gig QSFP+ card. You then link the appliance to the spare QSFP port on your router.

Siklu Case study 80 GHZ Indianapolis Indiana

Some photos from a Siklu 80GHZ deployment in Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. This was deployed by On-Ramp Indiana (https://www.ori.net). The problem being solved is moving video files around a network in order to get it to smart screens and projectors. This is a very urban area and wireless was pretty much the only option to get from building to building.

Siklu 80GHZ was on the shortlist due to the distances involved. Another consideration was the footprint of the equipment. The equipment had to be as low profile as possible.

Another needed aspect of this network was the ability to move traffic around at layer 2. Not all traffic is IP based in this type of network.

Equipment used
Ether Haul 1200FX
https://www.siklu.com/product/etherhaul-kilo-series/

Right above the observation windows, you can see the Siklu just to the right of the center corner

Some technical Details

Average traffic over the past 2 months

As you can see traffic is reasonably consistent in the 80-100 meg range. We needed a solution that did not slow down due to interference. A possible 10’s of thousands of visitors to this attraction in a weekend, reliability and performance were critical. When this was installed we did not know about COVID, but this is an attraction people can enjoy from their cars and social distancing. This use added to the visibility of this attraction, thus making the reliability even more crucial.

Articles about the finished product
https://www.wthr.com/article/news/local/monument-circle-get-new-light-show-time-holidays/531-ef1819ca-5f27-4886-9283-17e481c33f39

https://www.wthr.com/article/news/local/new-light-show-sound-system-entertain-monument-circle-visitors/531-576ce095-501c-41c6-913a-518a0cc05779

On-Ramp Indiana Contacts www.ori.net 317.774.2100