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Meeting Customer Demands for Reliable Service

Using Linux routers to maintain high network uptime

T6 Broadband is a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) offering Internet, VoIP, and television service to 3,000 customers within a 3,000-square-mile area of North Central Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. At the core of its growing success is its point-to-multi-point wireless network that supports growing customer demands for fast, reliable Internet service.

The company's existing network infrastructure included two Cisco core routers on a network with 63 wireless towers. To maintain quality of service (QoS) and deliver network connectivity up to six times faster than standard broadband services, T6 needed a new network design that would provide world-class performance and reliability.

With the continued problem of denial-of-service attacks, storm outages, and viruses hitting the T6 infrastructure, it was critical for T6 to minimize the impact of these events on network availability. The existing network design was ineffective because all customer traffic was statically bridged from one tower to the next, and an outage would interrupt connectivity for all customers located behind the point of failure. When an outage occurred, T6 would get calls from customers at all hours of the day and night, and in some cases, customers would call before the automated paging system could alert them about the situation.

Challenge
To improve on the existing network design, T6 sought a low-cost router that it could be installed at each tower location to prioritize network traffic and route around any network outages using the OSPF (Open Shortest Path First) dynamic routing protocol. With OSPF, any of the company's 27 backbone towers could lose connectivity, and the on-site router could select an alternate path to route around the problem. T6 believed that OSPF would provide the redundant network connectivity required to reduce downtime.

Solution
The T6 strategy made OSPF and QoS two of the most important features for the new routers installed at the 27 tower locations. To assist in the selection process, T6 got help from an independent network consultant. During the selection process, T6 considered many different factors including reliability, redundancy, affordability, and product support.

T6 was familiar with Cisco products, and knew that purchasing 30 Cisco routers would be expensive. So the company decided to find a lower-cost solution that would provide the required features and performance. T6 was familiar with Linux router maker ImageStream from industry trade shows, and the T6 consultant recommended ImageStream's Rebel router as an ideal fit for the application.

With a base price of $1,999, the Rebel is ImageStream's entry-level router for high-speed multi-homed networks, DS3/E3 installations, and broadband aggregation (see the sidebar).

Based on pre-sales information, the Rebel appeared to offer T6 the best price and performance for the application. This would be a big investment, so the company decided to bring in four of the Rebel routers to test before making the final decision. During the implementation process, ImageStream technical support helped T6 configure the routers for the specific application requirements. Following its rigorous product testing, T6 decided to deploy the 27 Rebel routers.

For less than 10% of the cost of a Cisco router, the Rebel router delivered higher throughput and better scalability, which allowed T6 to run the ImageStream Rebel router at the core of its network. The T6 staff also felt that ImageStream's robust router platform with advanced QoS and OSPF support made the Rebel ideal for use in its wireless backbone.

T6 worked with authorized Midwest distributor Solutions4ebiz to purchase the Rebel routers for its towers. Solutions4ebiz offers online sales of ImageStream routers at www.imagestreamsolutions.com.

Some of the reasons T6 chose the Image-Stream Rebel router included the reasonable price, superior performance, and versatility. T6 was also impressed with the manufacturer's excellent customer support team, its responsiveness and expertise in the product and applications. ImageStream includes 24/7 technical support for the first year with most products, and T6 noted that ImageStream has one of the best response times that it has ever experienced from any equipment maker.

Results
T6 deployed the ImageStream Rebel router at each tower location to help deliver the fastest possible Internet access, VoIP, and television services to its customers. T6 used OSPF and redundant tower paths to route around outages, and reduce the number of customers that depended on each tower for connectivity. With OSPF, the company now has failover protection that provides minimal service interruptions and maintains a 99.82% uptime rate.

If a tower does experience a service outage, it is limited to customers that use that particular tower, and most problems are still resolved automatically in seconds, instead of the 15 minutes or more required to troubleshoot and repair the old infrastructure. The T6 staff no longer needs to re-route traffic manually, and its customers have stopped calling to report outages.

On average, an individual tower will drop service once every eight months due to bad weather or some other localized problem. Now, rather than causing an outage across the entire network, the other towers in the grid - and their Rebel routers - provide more than enough redundant capacity to carry the re-routed traffic and significantly reduce downtime for T6 customers.

The new T6 network provides the redundancy and reliability that sets T6 apart from its competitors. The company plans to incorporate even more ImageStream routers into their growing network as customer demand dictates. T6 also recommends that wireless ISPs install routers at each tower location, and they recommend ImageStream routers as the low-cost, high-performance alternative to more expensive options. T6 emphasizes that ImageStream is different from other router manufacturers because of its products, its people, and its service.

Resources:

Rebel Router
The Rebel Router is ImageStream's entry-level router for BGP and DS3/E3 applications. The Rebel is widely used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as a premise router to terminate medium-density T1/E1 or single-port DS3/E3 installations. The Rebel can route one DS3 or E3 at line speed, and it can route up to 16 T1 or E1 circuits at wire speed. The Rebel can be used at the network core, edge, or customer premise. It delivers superior performance and reliability in a low-profile package that works where most Cisco 2800, 3800, 7200 series routers are used. Source: ImageStream Internet Solutions - See Figure 1

ImageStream Routers
> Competitive price
> Wire-speed performance
> 31-day performance and compatibility guarantee
> Runs on Linux
> Free support for 12 months on most routers (no contract required)
> Software included
> Inetics driver component technology
> Transferable end-user licensing
> Free Internet-based software upgrades for life, including newly-released product features
> One-year warranty on parts and labor

SOURCE: IMAGESTREAM INTERNET SOLUTIONS

More Stories By Jack Wilson

Jack Wilson is an Enterprise Architect with Amerisure Mutual Insurance. He has been in the IT industry for 30 years and has worked as a consultant for a number of companies in the insurance, finance, transportation, software and health industries in the United States and Europe. This experience has included system development, database administration, and for the last decade architectural strategy, design and implementation.

Wilson started with Amerisure Insurance in 2004 as their first Enterprise Architect and has acted as a change agent in that organization to bring about significant change in moving the company forward with a comprehensive virtualization strategy. The early and tangible success of these efforts has created a momentum for driving this strategy broader and deeper across the organization.

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