Technically Speaking

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Another day, another raft of emails from online service providers prompting me to update my passwords. My inbox currently resembles a triage unit trying to clamp the impact of Heartbleed. Both professionally and personally, I’m receiving email after email on the topic. In many respects, it’s a timely wake-up call to the many millions of people still using the same childhood password for all their online services. It’s also a prescient reminder about the vulnerability of our data and the networks we depend so heavily upon.

Over the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to experts about network security, specifically in regards to data transport. With almost every discussion, I found one thought repeatedly ringing out like a clarion call – how can networks be so vulnerable? And I’m not referring to just a few networks here and there, I’m talking about an enormous number on a global scale. These networks often belong to businesses that are dependent upon the integrity and safety of their mission-critical data. Businesses that would suffer enormous financial losses if their networks were found to be susceptible to security breaches. Read the full post

Finding Fiber Outside Your LAN

You may or may not take your high-speed fiber connection for granted, depending on how much trouble it took to get it. If you look behind the curtain, local and long haul fiber optic connections are run in some pretty predictable places, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. Knowing where and how your high speed connections are routed can provide insight both into the nature of the arcane business of rights-of-way and (more importantly) the ability to be aware of when and how service can be interrupted.

If you are in a relatively new building in an office park, the “last mile” fiber was more than likely installed during construction and brought to a central office or similar central service point for routing onto a long haul network. Everyone thinks of fiber as something trenched and buried in the ground, but there’s a surprising amount of fiber on Ye Olde Telephone Poles. The phone companies like poles because they are already in place and don’t have to dig up the ground or result to odd tricks with plumbing and pipes and conduit. In some places, you might find fiber pulled through sewer pipes since every building has that sort of access point. Read the full post

Using Intimacy as a Weapon in the ISP/OTT War

When you attend telecom conferences as part of your day job as I do, you are frequently subject to the biggest trending spook acronym in the industry: OTT. OTT stands for Over the Top, a rather awkward (in my opinion) denomination for market players who use the Internet (which stands ‘above’ the physical network of telecom operators, at least in the OSI stack) to offer services directly to the telecom operators’ customers.

I don’t like the acronym OTT, at least as it’s commonly used. For one thing, as my friend and fellow analyst Dean Bubley says, if content and application providers are Over the Top as seen from the network operator, does that mean that the network operators are Under the Bottom as seen from the content and application providers? More importantly though, using a (gross simplification of) a delivery mechanism to describe a type of players is dangerous. When Telefonica launches an app (called Tu Me) to enable VoIP and messaging on smartphones, it’s also delivering a service ‘Over the Top’. That is why I prefer to reserve the term for the delivery mechanism and distinguish as market players the Network Operators (Orange, AT&T, Telefonica…) and the Online Service Providers (Skype, Google, Dropbox…) Read the full post

NFV – a New Star or Halley’s Comet?

Lessons Learned

Like Sisyphus, who never did manage to roll the huge bolder to the top of the hill, we frequently push for promising new technologies and while we enthusiastically engage, we need to recognize that other technologies start compromising our effort. Examples? Think about all the brilliant brain power that went into ATM! It’s specification and development of respective products kept half a generation of data experts busy. Today, it has almost disappeared with some remaining legacy installations creating headaches for the operational staff.

Did Sisyphus Communicaticus identify with Network Function Virtualization (NFV) a new technology that needs to be pushed to the top? Will he make it or will we talk about the useless attempt sometime in the future? Read the full post

Ulrich Kohn
March 27, 2014

The Wild, Wonderful World of 3D Printing

Only the imagination, money and materials can limit what can be created with 3D printing. Over the last few years, 3D printing has come into its own. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printers can print almost anything from car and airplane parts to textiles, toys and even food. The number of industries utilizing 3D printing is expansive covering everything from aerospace and defense to automotive, healthcare, entertainment, consumer and architecture – with a few other categories in there. 3D printing enables companies to manufacture customized products without the need for special tooling, reducing the cost of complexity and the time to market. Read the full post