Monday, December 22, 2014

5G? 6G?? How About 200G?!

Back in 2013, Verizon ran a successful 200 Giga-bits-per-second (200Gbps or 200G) trial in collaboration with communications equipment manufacturer Ciena. The trial was done over optical fiber using a single wavelength. Well - trials are trials - done in optimized and controlled laboratory type settings by people in white lab coats. Experts speculated whether these kinds of bit rates could be achieved in the real world. Well.... guess what?

Earlier this month, Verizon provisioned 200G technology using the same Ciena gear on an ultra-long-haul production network between Boston and New York without impacting live customer traffic on the same network and without making any modifications to the existing fiber or network infrastructure equipment. The new Ciena gear was only added on each end of the communications channel.

Significant? You bet. More information on a single wavelength over long distance without any loss of signal quality. All this without having to upgrade fiber and infrastructure equipment in the field. It opens the door for the possibilities of much higher bit rates over existing fiber-based networks. We'll see 400 Gbps soon and yes even Tera-bit-per-second (Tbps) rates over existing optical fiber infrastructure soon.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Closing the loop with IP/Optical Integration

I've spent the last 17 years focused on Internet Protocol (IP) over various transport systems - wired (copper), wireless and optical. With the explosion of video, social media and other bandwidth hungry applications we've seen fiber moving closer and closer to the end user. Wireless is the perfect example with towers back-hauled into the network by fiber. It's really just the last mile/final connection that is typically not optical fiber based for most of us.

We're seeing IP/optical integration today really ramping with these things called software defined networks (SDNs). I wrote a post defining and describing SDN's last month titled SDN: When The Hardware Becomes A Little More Soft

With the move to all-IP, SDN and cloud services, many service providers are now integrating IP routing and transport. In this short 4 minute and 50 audio clip, Arnold Jansen discusses how IP/optical control integration can help operators simplify and streamline their operations and drive better cost synergies.

 Smart, fast, efficient. Good stuff.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

Stanford Professor Robert Sutton, one of my favorite authors, has written six excellent management books.  My favorite to date was written in 2007 -  a New York Times best seller titled The No A**hole Rule. You can fill in the *'s on your own :)

In the book, Sutton lays out a dirty dozen list of common everyday actions that a**holes use and how some companies - including JetBlue, Men's Wearhouse, and Google - have created work environments where positive self-esteem is used to build a more productive, motivated, and satisfied workforce.

 Here's Sutton's dirty dozen list:
  1. Personal insults.
  2. Invading one's personal territory.
  3. Uninvited personal contact.
  4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and non-verbal.
  5. Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems.
  6. Withering email flames.
  7. Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims.
  8. Public shaming or status degradation rituals.
  9. Rude interruptions.
  10. Two-faced attacks.
  11. Dirty looks.
  12. Treating people as if they are invisible.
You don't have to in be a position of power or money to be an a**hole. The pic above is a good example. Most would assume the Corvette parked that way first but - maybe it was the Jeep...... Regardless of whether you drive a Corvette or a Jeep - Sutton is always a good read.  

He's published a seventh book this year - Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for LessI just grabbed the Kindle edition and will start reading the new book this evening. Looking forward to it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

SDN: When The Hardware Becomes A Little More Soft

I grew up in the dedicated hardware world. Switches and routers that – sure - included processors and a little bit of memory.  Devices with pretty basic operating systems that kept track of addresses to move content around on a network, making sure stuff gets to where it is supposed to go. Nothing fancy but it has worked pretty good with the build out of the internet over the past 20 years or so. 

Today, we’re seeing a pretty major shift to what people are calling Software Defined Networks (SDNs). You may have seen SDN also referred to as elastic computing and/or elastic networks. The idea with SDNs is to not just try and make the network more efficient but also make it flexible and scalable. The concept is pretty simple and SDN Central explains it pretty well:
Software Defined Networking (SDN) is a new approach to designing, building and managing networks. The basic concept is that SDN separates the network’s control (brains) and forwarding (muscle) planes to make it easier to optimize each. 
In this environment, a Controller acts as the “brains,” providing an abstract, centralized view of the overall network. Through the Controller, network administrators can quickly and easily make and push out decisions on how the underlying systems (switches, routers) of the forwarding plane will handle the traffic.
So, you’ve got a smart controller looking at the entire network including applications running on the end devices. The controller communicates with network controlling devices (switches and routers), adjusting and optimizing the network to real-time conditions. Sort of like a maître d / head waiter in a busy restaurant.

For providers (Verizon, AT&T, etc) , SDNs reduce equipment costs and allow the networks to be more efficiently controlled. These networks are optical fiber-based and that has me pretty excited with my new position at the NSF-funded OP-TEC ATE Center

Centralized, programmable optical networks that dynamically adjust to changing requirements. Nice. I’ll be writing more about SDN and a number of other optics based technologies in future posts.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Blog in Transition

As some of you know I've gone through a few career-related changes over the past year. After seventeen years the ICT Center was sunset by the National Science Foundation. Seventeen years is a long time for anything to be funded by the NSF and I'd like to thank everyone involved - there are so many - from all over the United States. It was so much fun to do the work we did at the historical time we did it. We positively influenced tens-of-thousands of lives in our country - our legacy - and that is pretty cool.

On Sept 5, after a lot of contemplation, I early-retired from a tenured faculty position (basically a job for life) in Massachusetts and with that, many are convinced I have truly lost my mind :) 

Seriously, the time seemed right for me to do something a little different while I was still young and nimble enough! The opportunity was there and I accepted a four-day-a-week position as an Associate Director of the National Center for Optics and Photonics Education (  OP-TEC is another NSF Advanced Technological Education center of excellence located in Waco, TX and funded via the University of Central Florida. I get to Waco once a month for four days. I'm also doing a little bit of evaluation work with NSF funded projects around the country

Hmmmmm, optics and photonics you may ask? "What the heck is that? I thought you were some kind of communications guy??" Well...... when I first started teaching (30 years ago) I taught both geometric optics and wave optics for a number of years. In fact, the faculty position I just retired from included seniority in the laser electro-optics department. It's been great to dig in to some familiar content and dust off my old notes again. I've also had to dust off some brain cells and that is always a good thing. I'm seeing lots of intersections and opportunities with optics, lasers and computers. Hmmmmm

So..... what's up with this blog? I'm feeling settled in now and am ready to start writing again. I'll be writing about many of the same emerging technology topics as the past and a bunch of new topics. I'm expanding horizons, learning new stuff, making mistakes as I learn, and learning from those mistakes. Not ready to spend my time fishing and golfing - I'm actually pretty good at fishing but really stink at golf :) At least not yet. 

Thanks to everyone who has followed me here in the past. You thought you got rid of me but - I'm back :)

Monday, July 7, 2014

What To Do When You Get a SPAM Text Message

I've been getting these daily it seems. The Federal Trade Commission has a set of guidelines you can use. Here's FTC recommendations on what to do when you get a spam text message:
  • Delete any texts asking you to confirm or provide personal information. Legitimate companies don’t ask for information like account numbers or passwords by text or email.
  • Don’t reply, and don’t click on links provided in the message. Links can install malware and take you to spoof sites that look real but whose purpose is to steal your information.
  • Don’t give out any personal information in response to a text. A spammer wants access to your Social Security number, credit card numbers, and bank and utility account numbers to open new accounts in your name.  
  • Report spam texts to your carrier. AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint or Bell subscribers can copy the original text and forward it to 7726 (SPAM), free of charge.
  • Review your cell phone bill for unauthorized charges.Report them to your carrier.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Storage Tiering

This is another topic I’ve been reading a lot about lately.  Storage tiering uses expensive faster access drives for frequently used data and slower less expensive  access drives for older archive type data. 

Typical fastest level tiers in a data center will use an optically connected fiber channel disk array, followed by Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) attached drives, followed by Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) drives followed sometime even by tape drives. Tape drives – I know – but yes they are still used - typically to take content completely offline and store.

Mechanical drives have been historically used for the fastest tier but as prices drop and operating systems include better support , we’re seeing a lot of much faster solid state memory devices (solid-state drives (SSDs) and I/O accelerator cards (sometimes referred to as solid-state accelerators [SSAs]) used for the faster level  tiers now.

What’s the difference between a SSD and an SSA? They both basically do the same thing – the only difference is the data interface. 
  • SSD’s look like a mechanical hard drive and the server operating system uses standard BIOS calls to access. 
  • SSA’s are a little different and use a PCI Express (PCIe) interfaceThe operating system must use a unique set of software drivers specific to the SSA device being used. 
Because SSA’s use drivers that have been tuned specific to the device, they tend to be a little faster. Both SSD and SSA devices can work together on the same server.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Calculating Wavelength If Frequency Is Known

I get this question a lot. It’s not exactly phrased this way though. Typically it’s along the lines of “What’s the wavelength of the WiFi signals in my home or office?

Good question and a pretty simple calculation! I do realize with a quick Google search you can look the value up but….. that takes the fun out of it J

First, let’s define wavelength. Electromagnetic radiation is sinusoidal in nature and wavelength, represented by the Greek letter lambda (λ), is a distance measurement usually expressed in meters. Wavelength is defined as the distance in meters of one sinusoidal cycle as illustrated in the figure below.

Most WiFi signals run at around 2.4 Giga Hertz (GHz) or 2.4 Billion cycles per second!

Now, in you home or office, you’ve likely got a lot of other wireless devices (microwave, ovens, cordless phones, baby monitors, etc) operating in this same 2.4 GHz frequency range. In the WiFi world, the 2.4 GHz WiFi signal range is divided into 11 channels and channels can be selected when setting up a wireless network to avoid other devices transmitting in the same frequency range.

Ok – back to our question – what’s the wavelength? Here’s how we do the calculation:
12.5 cm is approximately 4.92 inches and...... that's your wavelength.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cloud Computing Closer Look - Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas)

Let’s take a quick closer look at cloud computing today starting with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). IaaS is one of the three main categories of cloud computing services. The other two are Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) – we’ll cover the last two in later posts.

So, basically an organization (larger or small) outsources equipment (hardware) that can include servers, routers, switches, storage, backup, etc. The service provider handles all of the maintenance, updating, connectivity, etc and the client pays on a per-use basis. Some of the common IaaS components include:
  • Billing.
  • Automation of administrative tasks.
  • Dynamic scaling.
  • Desktop virtualization.
  • Policy-based services.
  • Internet connectivity.
IaaS is a cost effective option, especially for small companies that do not want to invest directly in hardware and staff to maintain it. That’s why it is sometimes (and perhaps more accurately) referred to as Hardware as a Service (HaaS).

Who are the big IaaS service providers? Today it’s Amazon, Google and Microsoft. Security has always been a concern when it comes to cloud-based processes and there are a number of smaller enterprise level companies involved including Adallom, Alert Logic, FireBlade, FortyCloud, HyTrust, Imperva, JumpCloud, and Porticor.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Rise Of The HetNet

I’m starting to see the term HetNet used in my reading and even had a student ask me for details this morning. That said – I figured it would make a good blog post.

HetNet is short for Heterogeneous Network and is a term currently being used in the wireless world. Most of us are carrying around smartphones with a number of different antennas built in for access via different network technologies. The neat thing about HetNets is they are able to maintain mobile connectivity (no dropped connections) when switching between different wireless connection technologies. 

The three different connection technologies getting all the HetNet buzz right now are LTE, Carrier WiFi, and enterprise femtocells. LTE is 4G cellular service and Carrier WiFi is just WiFi service provided by a wireless carrier. Femtocells are small cell devices that are connected to an Internet broadband connection. 

So HetNets allow a user device to seamlessly switch from network type to network type– LTE to WiFi to femtocell and vice-versa back and forth without dropping a connection. Pretty neat.

Now, not too long ago, it was believed LTE would be the dominant mobile technology and there would not be a need to alternative type technologies like Carrier WiFi and femotocells. But think about it…… there is only a limited amount of spectrum and bandwidth so providers are looking for ways to lower the number of devices per cell. There are also advantages to having users as close as possible to the different types of base stations. 

As a result, we’re seeing providers like Verizon Wireless and AT&T use HetNets to improve the coverage of their network, increase network capacity to match user demand. enhance the user experience, and lower the cost of delivering mobile broadband services.