Friday, August 22, 2008

Part III: Tier 1 Or Tier 2 Bandwidth Provider .... Which Would You Choose For A Bandwidth Solution & Why?

For many companies the prime criteria in making this decision is .... network uptime.

If you're running a 24x7, mission critical (lifesaving, or 24 hour corporate) infrastructure, it pays off highly to use both Tier 2 (for cost savings, generally speaking), a Tier 1, and even a backup network of Tier 3. But, watch your technology. I've seen networks that use a Tier 1 provider for leased line access, then fail over to ISDN for backup. That's horribly ineffective. As the single most common failure point in any physical network remains the last mile. And whatever affects your last mile, tends to affect all circuits simultaneously. Assuming they are in the same pipe or coming from the same CO.

Instead, my rule is - pick the vendor that can give you the highest SLA for the budget, and whom is willing to build a personal relationship.

This gives you a single point to contact when problems arise - but, there's caveats.

All things equal, avoid managed service providers, and favor using your own technicians to manage core routing. This prevents a lot of accidents, although it doesn't prevent a provider side core routing failure. Additionally, in those locations where 24x7 uptime is critical, arrange a second access loop. If you can afford it, SONET (e.g. OC3 bandwidth), or separate copper (e.g. T1 Bandwidth) from a different CO. For a lower cost solution, look at wireless - fixed point, laser, or even EVDO/HSDPA. They're lower speed, but avoid the last mile issues.

Some of my friends have had great success with Sprint as an MPLS carrier, with an EVDO wireless backup infrastructure at critical points. Others have also had good technical success with AT&T, and certainly, they provide most of the loops for the network. Sprint does an excellent job of managing the loops, however, far better than other vendors many have worked with (and sometimes, better than AT&T - if you have to cross the great divides of the baby bells).

What works well is that, with MPLS in general, the actual architecture is left up to you (since "you" do not use managed services). This gives you great flexibility, however, it is resource costly. The few sticking points you may encounter will boil down to getting any provider's groups together - the wireless folks talking to the MPLS group, the MPLS group talking to the firewall/security group, etc. That will vary by provider and application - in my experience, no carrier at any tier is really good at it.

You don't necessarily have to navigate through all the confusion alone. I recommend you take advantage of the free help available at: Bandwidth Solution

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