Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Ground is Falling! Urban Data Centers and a Case for Wireless Backup

In a front page expose, "Danger Under our Streets," USA Today reported that there are 86,000 miles of aging gas pipe lines corroding under U.S. streets. 30,000 miles are cast-iron, much of it from Roosevelt's time (Teddy!). The rest is unprotected, rusty steel1. Gas leaks are surprisingly common throughout and it's practically a tinderbox in older cities, notably Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C., where replacing aging pipe is a mammoth undertaking.

Consider these statistics culled from government reports - thousands of gas leaks each year, an explosion every other day, thousands more averted and 2% of natural gas literally slipping through the (pipe) cracks. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reported that in 2012, Con Edison in New York averaged 83 leaks for every 100 miles of main. That year 9,906 leaks, half of them hazardous, were reported by Con Edison and National Grid just between New York City and Westchester county.2  5,900 leaks were mapped along 1,500 miles in Washington D.C.3

NYC aging underground infrastructure

Those afraid to drive across bridges may now want to avoid city streets as well, but from an IT standpoint, if you're responsible for a data center in a high risk city, then there's no excuse not to have a kick-ass wireless backup on your roof, whether to another facility or remote Internet POP. It's relatively cheap insurance and while it may not back up all your fiber, you'll easily maintain critical services. And we're not talking about covering you for a few tense minutes. A gas line explosion, like a hurricane, can sideline your data center for days.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Meet the Rip Snorting, Fire Breathing 2.5 Gbps E-band Radio by Huawei

Huawei just upped the ante in the E-band radio market with their RTN 380. We just installed the very first of these links in the U.S., and so I’ll give you my impressions in my next couple of entries.

It started with a unique application where we had antenna space for only a single 1-foot dish (sandwiched between two existing ones), but we needed to get twice the throughput as advertised by leading E-band vendors1 The customer is a genetics testing lab, where a single robot wants a 2 gig/second pipe, but if you Google leading E-band vendors you’ll see that their radios all top out at 1-1.25 Gbps 

A few uncomfortable weeks passed without a solution and then I saw an email from Huawei’s Seattle office, introducing their “2nd Generation E-band microwave”.  It was the 2 Gbps solution I was looking for! But, a Chinese radio? Holy ghosts of Fessenden, Marconi, de Forest and Tesla! What do the Chinese know about microwave?  Well a lot, actually. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

REMEC acquires BridgeWave Assets...The Big News in the Wireless Biz – that you Never Heard.

I recently learned that the assets of BridgeWave Communications were acquired last December by REMEC Broadband Wireless. This is Big news – capital “B”, for the wireless telecom business; for carriers, integrators and especially microwave vendors. Yet as of this writing, you won’t find an announcement in REMEC’s news page, and you also won’t find one in BridgeWave’s press release list. In fact, you won’t find news of it anywhere on the Internet before this posting. Interesting… 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Suddenly Microwave Latency is all the Rage, but Should it Be?

Let me start by saying point-blank. Don’t stress about microwave latencyIt’s not an issue, period. It’s good to ask about it, but don’t get talked into buying one radio over another because of some (supposed) latency advantage. Hear me out and tell me if I’m wrong…

My first brush with microwave latency was 1986, so I'm pretty familiar with the topic. My engineers were writing the industry’s first wireless Ethernet specs (typed up on my 128k MAC) and calculated round-trip propagation delay through the air, along with whatever delays were associated with the equipment. Those specs were confirmed by Cisco when we co-developed the first full-duplex Ethernet interface, and later by Motorola in a technology transfer deal. 

Here’s what I know. Latency of a microwave transmission is (considerably) less than optical fiber, but only as the signal travels through air as opposed to glass. There’s also the fact of equipment latency, and that's where fiber wins.  Yet microwave hardware (of the FCC licensed variety) introduces mere microseconds of delay, a minuscule figure when you consider that it takes 150 milliseconds before VoIP suffers. 

So why all the fuss about latency?