Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Finally a platform for IPTV that claims to be standards based

This post on FierceIPTV looks interesting, Ericsson have launched a new Middleware product for IPTV based on Open TV Forum specifications. AND IMS capable.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Finally my vision of a presence centre may well be realised

I've just been reading the announcement from Astricon from Skype and Digium on Fierce VoIP. I've been using Asterisk for sometime and even built an ISTP business on it and solutions such as Trixbox. And I have to admit to being a Skype user too, even with my own telco.

However back to the announcement - I can offer Skype presence to customers and even publish my "presence" state on my corporate website, that actually reflects the presence not of an individual, but of the ability to route a call from a web page through to my PBX, with it costing me a dime!

My status

Here's my presence Icon, with the Asterisk/Skype Connector, this routes to my PBX, which can route this anywhere else including a Queue of customer support or sales representative.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Back From Holiday

Back from leave with new ideas and now using the Vyatta software to build some appliances having got VRRP working the way I want it, I have the hardware ready to build a nice customised appliance - fully solid state and the same depth as the Netgear switches I use (GSM7300 series).

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Having fun with VRRP and Clustering on Vyatta

Having had some time post teaching to get my head down to some serious network building, I've been investigating building high resilience in to my hosted call centre designs.

I base my design as much as possible on Open Source technologies, since it gives me and the people I work for the biggest bang per buck for the technology deployments. There's been discussion on a number of blocks about Vyatta's claims around their router performance vs. Cisco and even some flaming of both parties - none of that here!

Vyatta has a place in any network. Why? Flexibility (well and of course cost), by utilising open source, standard hardware and pre-integrated hardware like Sangoma cards, you have a very versatile routing capability. Plus its easy to extend to to anything you can imagine. For example - for building redundancy across a number of routers to cope with failures VRRP has been developed in the IETF (based on Cisco HSRP), but failing over things like IPSec tunnels can be a bit more fun, so use clustering instead. HA cluster is already well implemented under Linux, but combining in a routing platform is genius, especially when its easy to configure.

We've been building routers and firewalls using Linux for a while (IP Tables and the Kernel can be a pretty slick firewall if you're happy to roll-your-own, and to be fair there are a few ways of doing it including other open source solutions like Smoothwall. Horses for course - Yes I like Smoothwall too!

The other main bonus of a Linux based Firewall Router is virtualisation - with huge pressure on data centres both from the power consumption and cost plus the greening up of IT, virtualising the resources of service and your routing/firewall infrastructure is very compelling. No a don't think a Vyatta pizza box could replace the layer 3 48Gpbs non-blocking switch right now - but if I'm virtualising my data centre - where's the switch? Actually there are fewer switch ports too, because each server could be running many Operating System instances with "software" ethernet bus bridged to the physical NICs on the device. We're in a position to team NICs in to an aggregate LAN connection of say 8 Gbps with 8 NICs in a team, and handle massive amounts of compute power in a single redundant chassis.

So just how easy does something like Vyatta make say VRRP:
interfaces {
ethernet eth0 {
hw-id 00:15:c5:fa:3c:1a
vrrp {
vrrp-group 100 {
priority 200
sync-group hotswap
ethernet eth1 {
hw-id 00:15:c5:fa:3c:1b
vrrp {
vrrp-group 200 {
priority 200
sync-group hotswap
loopback lo {

The configuration above creates a VRRP enabled interface (the master router), which will swap over to a slave in a pair (or more you can have more than two routers) if either of the Interfaces fail. Sweet.

So putting that kind of thing to good use - I can put a NIC from each router onto a separate switch if the switch fails connecting the master, then the backup will swing into action within a couple of seconds. (TCP connections won't see the joint). Now depending on how the servers connected to the switches are configured, combine NIC teaming on the servers, and you have a highly available solution.

Combine allow that with the flexibility of IPTables and an easy configuration you've a lot of bang for buck!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Update on the Missing Standard

OK - So maybe I was a little premature, since there are clearly standards emerging in IPTV with the Open IPTV Forum and the ITU-T work. BUT are the manufacturers still doing there own thing?

Now yes there are a number of underlying standards that are already in there as I mentioned in the previous post.

And the DVB and ETSI specs seem to be making progress to a architectural and in some cases Java Doc specification for the Multimedia Home Platform (MHP). Again the question is any of the manufacturers using these standards to provide interoperability between applications, platforms and services?

Sunday, 15 June 2008

IPTV's missing standard - Middleware

Having spent the last week researching IPTV before presenting a two day session on it, it has struck me we've got one big flaw in our current IPTV architecture.......

Middleware. Why haven't we got a standard for Middleware, all I see at the moment is proprietary solution after proprietary solution. What we need is to come up with a standard for interfaces to STBs (SSL/TLS encrypted HTTP with XML/CSS would be a good start), Billing engines (IPDR would be a good start here - yeah some vendor support this), OSS interfaces for events and alarm status. Hey about a plug-in based interface for the Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Conditional Access (CA) systems too, which seem to be spawning quicker than "Aliens off-spring".

Sure we've got some standard way of doing things at least, Multicast (Internet Group Management Protocol - IGMP) for channel hopping and RTSP for controlling Video On Demand (VoD), but alas we still seem to be in the dark ages when it comes to a decent spec for the middleware and management systems.

I think we owe it to ourselves to come up with a standard specification and Architecture framework for IPTV middleware to increase competition and reduce costs. I'd like to choose STB vendors, Middleware vendors and OSS/BSS vendors separately for IPTV networks. I have the choice of network equipment already.....

Monday, 26 May 2008

Busy May

May has been pretty hectic, I've been to Germany, Dubai and Now off to Florida next week Teaching VoIP, IMS and SIGTRAN courses. I've also managed to build a proof of concept IP Contact Centre Solution for Oracle to demonstrate to a customer the capabilities of the product.

Alas the MPLS lab has had to take a back seat for a little while. Maybe I'll get a little time in June to finish of the set-up.

I'll be posting small updates via Twitter as I get time, next major post with a lab update likely to be mid June.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

So the basics of the lab are all up and running and I now have MPLS label switched packets traversing a network, with LDP publishing the labels and FECs.

I also have the VYATTA and Cisco routers talking nicely to each other using OSPF.

Next job to get some MPLS Traffic trunks established, to get some traffic routing across the network based on some criteria other than the OSPF shortest path.

Then try to get a MPLS VPN sorted.

Onwards and upwards.....

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Since my last post

This week I've been busy preparing course content for a VoIP and IMS two day overview, trying to get my Cisco Lab into shape for demonstrating MPLS-TE, MPLS VPNs and routing using OSPF and BGP.

I've also got a Vyatta router talking OSPF to the Cisco stack, and now need to get the OSPF running against my Netgear FSM7328S switch. With the aim of running my IP-phones over one MPLS LSP whilst other traffic goes over a separate LSP.

Why go to all this trouble in a lab setup? I believe the only way to confidently teach a topic is to understand practically how it works.

Thursday, 27 March 2008


Welcome to the Aeonvista blog, over the coming weeks and months I hope to bring updates to what I [Neill Wilkinson] am doing at Aeonvista.

Aeonvista Ltd is a new ICT consultancy business formed in November 2007. The strapline hopefully gives you an idea of what the purpose of Aeonvista is - opening up new ideas, my aim is to bring creative solutions and ideas to ICT problems for my customers and for the ICT community as a whole. My ethos is to challenge, and be challenged by the new concepts, ideas, technologies and services that will emerge as we speed headlong in to the world of Next-Generation Networks and All-IP networks.

Its going to be a great journey for us all in the ICT industry as we deploy technologies such as: IMS, Server and application virtualisation, MPLS, IP-Contact Centres and Presence aware Unified Communications platforms.

Apart from being an industry practitioner, am also a trainer and try to ensure people in the ICT industry have the knowledge and tools to meet the challenges we all face moving forwards at a seemingly accellerating pace.

I have been writing papers for some time and have been lucky enough to be able to publish my ideas with John Wiley - Next Generation Networks - Technologies and Service. I will be bringing more of my thoughts to this blog and will be discussing some of the flood of news items and announcements that we see every day from the key players in the industry to bring my perspective on what it means for us all.