Tuesday, 11 October 2016
To ten gigabits, and beyond!
I remember when we (A&A) started, turn of the century, with a 2Mb/s BT Central. We quickly upgraded, and I remember when we got our first 155Mb/s ATM BT Central link - that really made us a "proper ISP", and I think some comparison sites required it to be listed.
Times have changed and we now have a total of 6Gb/s spread over two carriers at present, we have a lot of 1Gb/s links to transit and peering. We have a large pool of 1Gb/s LNS that handle all of the traffic with plenty of space to spare and plenty more to expand.
But we have seen nearly 4Gb/s of customer traffic on occasion - not too much to handle, but growing, and time to take action.
Building our network to handle peak load, even when Apple do an iOS update, or there is football on streaming TV, or the Olympics, is hard work, but we have done well. We have done better than many other ISPs in some cases, but we always aim higher.
Our aim is not to be the bottleneck. This is not something most ISPs boast, to be honest, but we want the service to be of the highest quality all of the time. It costs a lot, which is why we are not the cheapest, but it is important to us to be the best. We also aim to be open with customers, which is why I am posting all of these details.
The next stage is 10Gb/s links. We have already upgraded our core network to use switches with 10Gb/s ports and 80Gb/s links between our main two London sites. But the next step is the 10Gb/s links out to the world.
The first step is upgrading links in to Talk Talk. We have asked Talk Talk to upgrade two links which will mean changing each from 1Gb/s to 10Gb/s. We expect it to happen soon, and I really hope that is a matter of weeks, but it is a tad out of our hands now. We have been trying to upgrade for a few months now based on our projections, but we have now seen some lines on TT back-haul showing some latency in the evenings some of the time (we've taken steps to improve this now anyway). Once this upgrade is in place we are making an order of magnitude increase in capacity which will last us some years. Even so, the switches we have allows us to add more and more 10Gb/s ports as needed.
The other important step is upgrading external links. We have a lot of 1Gb/s links, and at present this is working very well without causing signs of congestion for normal traffic. But we know that some times, such as iOS upgrade, some links can get really close to being full. So we are getting some 10Gb/s routers and upgrading some peering links soon. Again, this is expected in weeks, but depends on factors outside our control.
It is a brave new world for us, and a big step. But this means we have a massive amount of headroom for unexpected traffic bursts in future, and as always we aim to stay on top of demand and not be the bottleneck. Seeing at most 4Gb/s of traffic and having 24Gb/s of capacity will be good start!
If all goes well by Christmas, the plan is improved usage allowances on standard Home::1 - so watch this space.