Telecosm 2008 – scaling Internet backbones …

Infinera SolutionsThere were a number of cool presentations today with a focus on the semiconductors and optical components … and various network processing units and multi-core general purpose processors for high-speed backbone networking. It’s actually a fascinating subject area that few people seem to really be aware of. We all take the bandwidth to our homes as a given … and to our businesses, and to our hosted servers, blogs, flickr, twitter, and YouTube and on and on. But how is all of that backbone bandwidth … running over the fiber that connects us to our favorite sites, services, applications, and videos … actually built out?

Well … there are a number of vendors that provide the bulk of the equipment, and within that equipment there are providers of the subcomponents and silicon behind the massive amounts of bandwidth provided by the Internet. Cisco, Juniper, and Alcatel add up to 90% of the market for the really high-end backbone switching and routing gear.

The dominant solution in this space is using DWDM – Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing – to place multiple colors of light on the same fiber, with each color carrying it’s own data. The current “commodity” speeds that are being sold are running at 40Gbps per link, and these are then installed in 4, 8, and 16+ slot chassis providing up to 1.2+Tbps packet switching speeds. Yes … that is 1.2 Terabits per second … 1.2 trillion bits per second … or about 120 billion characters per second. Kinda’ fast.

Some of the presenters today were Infinera, Luxtera, Photonic, and BroadLight. If you want to learn more about DWDM … Infinera has some cool videos that provide some details about their products on the Infinera Videos page. Their first video demonstrates how DWDM works …

During the presentations, there were a few stats that really stood out to me. One of these was the current average backbone bandwidth, per US carrier. Here is the US, although the presented admitted that it varies, the average was pegged at about 400Gbps+ on their backbone links. The key is that the estimates are an average of a 75% growth in the next year!

One of the examples of the calculations was based on taking this forward for 10 years … so if the internet grows at 70% per year for 10 years … using the current 40Gbps DWDM optical technologies:

  • 15 million DWDM transponders will have to be added
  • 165 million mechanical fiber couplings will have to be installed
  • 4 GigaWatts of additional power will be required
  • AND … In 10 years, they would be installing 4000 DWDM transponders PER DAY …
  • … requiring 2000+ more technicians!

Infinera was presenting on their upcoming 100Gbps optical technologies, and also mentioned their eventual 400Gbps product, followed by 1Tbps, 2Tbps, and 4Tbps chipsets. Obviously as they – and other companies – are able to deliver these higher capacity solutions, there will be smaller numbers of units required to keep pace.

To me it’s impressive to see that people are working on creating these next-generation solutions to boost the capabilities offered …. to ensure that the Internet backbones can keep pace with the demands for bandwidth being created by us users.

There is a lot going on in the industry to cope with Internet bandwidth demands …

Telecosm 2008 – Bob Metcalfe on Energy

Bob MetcalfeBob Metcalfe, of Ethernet fame, did a presentation this morning on his current investments in energy. He related, throughout the presentation, ways to link the progress of the Internet to work that could be done in looking for cheap, clean, effective, alternate energy sources.

Green Fuel – one of his investments, is exploring the use of algae to create feed, food, and fuel from the CO2 emissions from smokestacks. Dried Whole Algae can be used for feed and food. (He explained that Omega-3 fatty acids that we get from fish actually comes from the algae they eat … and suggested that we “cut out the middle fish”), Algae Oil can be used for biodiesel. Dilapidated meal can be used for foods. The “carbon credits” can also be gained … but are insignificant.

He also suggested that “Green” is not necessarily the right “color” to call the clean energy movement. It turns out that the “Greens” in the political realm seem to be more than just “Environmentalism”, but also Anti-technology, Anti-capitalism, Anti-trade, and Anti-American. All of these are not going to solve some of the real big challenges. Bob suggested that we consider it the “Blue” movement … he believes that the best solutions will be related to the sky, and oceans. His mantra is “cheap and clean” energy.

Bob briefly reviewed some of his other investments – Mintera is one of his investments, and they are doing 40Gbps Long Haul DWDM Optical Transmission solutions … allowing people to telecommute. SiCortex is creating supercomputer Linux Clusters … delivering more compute power per dollar, per foot, per watt. Ember which is creating control systems using Zigbee Standard CMOS Radios and Protocol Stack. Infinite Power Solutions which is creating Solid-state Thin-film Lithium-ion Batteries with nearly unlimited recharge cycles.  He also mentioned I366 Technologies (which I couldn’t find) that are creating next generation Silicon Solar Cells, and SiOnyx who are creating Black Silicon which has very useful photonic properties.

He stressed that Energy creation and usage are not directly tied to the Environment. They are both very independent issues.  If Global Warming were solved tomorrow, we would still want cheap, clean energy! The solutions – if we want them – to Global Warming are about Climate Control! He questioned where the real research is going on related to numerous climate control solutions.

He ended by joking about the day that we would get to ask the United Nations “Now that we can control the planet’s temperature … exactly what temperature do you want the earth to be?”

Yeah … that would be the day … I’m sure they already have that all figured out. Oh … and there would be no side effects at all to stopping the variations in planetary temperatures … right!

Telecosm 2008 – Cloud Computing and The Exaflood …

Nicholas was here at Telecosm to present about the shift – the “big switch” – to cloud computing. He reviewed the background on the evolution of electricity, and drew the parallels between the early days of creating your own power, to moving to a model where the power grid is a commoditized asset.

Nicholas reviewed the implications of Rethinking the Data Center: Virtualization of computing and storage, Consolidation, Programmable environments, Automated management, Multi-Tenant facilities, and Energy Efficiencies.  For anyone familiar with what Amazon is up to with AWS, and now Google with the Google Application Engine (GAE) this is all well known.
The next presentation was by Andrew Odlyzko who spoke about the Exaflood … the growth of Internet traffic. It was filled with facts about the current state of Internet traffic … and some predictions on the future.  One interesting fact … right now, the growth rate is actually slowing, even though the hype is accelerating.  Internet traffic growth is occurring … just not as fast as it has in the past.
Here are some of the more interesting numbers that Andrew talked about:

  • Qwest CTO Estimate: IP traffic to go from 9 PB/day in 2007 to 21 PB/day in 2012
  • Estimates for Internet traffic growth rates
    • mostly in the 50%-60% per year range
    • With 50% growth rates offset by 33% decline in cost … not much change in overall costs to support new levels of traffic.
  • Year-end 2006 worldwide  numbers:
    • digital storage: 185,000 PB
    • Internet traffic: 2,500 PB/month
  • Year-end 2006 US Internet traffic per capita:
    • 2GB/month
    • TV consumption ~40GB/month (assumes 3hr/day, 1Mbps, no HDTV)
    • TV/Video over the Internet will add *some* traffic, but not massive new numbers
  • Wild numbers about revenues to providers.  Revenue per MB:
    • SMS = $1000 / MB
    • Cell voice calls = $1 / MB
    • Wireline voice calls = $.10 / MB
    • Residential Internet = $.01 / MB
    • Backbone Internet = $.0001 / MB

The last figure that was shared during the panel discussion was that Eric Schmidt indicated last month that Google is currently accepting 10 hours of YouTube video per minute!  That comes to 14,400 hours of video PER DAY being uploaded to YouTube … absolutely amazing volume of data.

Telecosm 2008

This weekend Andrea and I came to the east coast – Lake George, NY – to have some fun, and to attend the Gilder/Forbes Telecosm 2008 conference. It was a lot of fun Sunday through Tuesday exploring the local area, going hiking in the Tongue Mountains, and having some great food. The Sagamore is an amazing resort on Green Island in Lake George, and we are staying in a very nice condo on the bay.

Last night we took a great cruise on the Adirondack – a 115′, three deck ship – that cruised around the islands at sunset while we had dinner on board. It was fun to meet some of the other attendees, and the evening wrapped up with a couple of brief presentations by two authors of current books Lawrence Solomon, Author of The Deniers, and Howard C. Hayden, Author of A Primer on CO2 and Climate. It was really good to hear different opinions about global warming, alternate sources of information, and new places to read more about some current theories and measurements. I’ll read the books and then see what I think.

This morning kicked off with George Gilder giving an introduction to this years Telecosm, and then Steve Forbes talking about his opinions on the current financial and economic trends in our country. Overall, he is much more bullish about things, and although he acknowledges that the Federal Reserve has made some errors, he seems to believe that we have a lot of opportunity before us. He feels that oils prices are currently a bubble, and that if you measure oil as a comparison to gold prices, the increase is not as large as claimed. He does feel that a change in monetary policies is going to burst the oil bubble. He is worried about a number of tax cuts that are going to be coming up for renewal in 2010 – capital gains and death taxes – both of which could reduce available capital for entrepreneurs and capitalists.  Steve is always great to listen to …

AsteriskNOW … configuring to use VoicePulse

AsteriskNOWI was able to get my AsteriskNOW system upgraded, and so now on to the next step … adding a new set of VoIP channels (phone lines) and a new incoming phone number. I wanted to do all of this via VoIP so that I can learn what it takes, and how to do it … and it’s been quite a learning lesson.

First, I’m using AsteriskNOW v1.0.2 and it includes the ability to add VoicePulse as a Service Provider out of the box. They actually provide support for several different providers, however I got VoicePulse as a recommend from a friend of mine. I figured that their rates looked very good, and I’d give it a try and see how things went …

VoicePulseThe first step in setting up AsteriskNOW to use VoicePulse is to set-up your VoicePulse account. That involves going to their website, and creating an account … and purchasing your initial credit with them. Once you fill out the information on their on-line form, they will e-mail you a credit card authorization agreement, which you have to complete and fax back to them. If you then call them they will grab your fax and activate your account. Once that is completed, the will give you the password to your account so that you can log into the VoicePulse Connect portal … where you manage your VoicePulse account and get all of the details to get things configured.

Once you can log into your VoicePulse account, you’ll want to go to the Credentials tab on the UI. This is where you’ll find your Login and Password for your channels. Now, I’ll do my best to explain channels here … since your base VoicePulse account comes with four of them. Channels are “like” phone lines, but do not necessarily have a phone number associated with them. What value is that? Well … you can make outbound calls. So with a base account, you get the ability to make four simultaneous outbound calls, and you’re charged by the minute to use them. Now you might be asking “What caller ID will show up to the people I am calling?” .. I asked that also. Asterisk allows you to assign that value when you configure your system! Any how … I digress …

So now that you have your VoicePulse credentials, the next step is to put those into AsteriskNOW. If you login to your AsteriskNOW admin web page, you can go to the Service Providers menu, and click the Add Service Provider button. Select a Provider Type of VoIP, and you’ll then see VoicePulse listed. When you select VoicePulse, you then be prompted for the Username and Password that you got from your VoicePulse Credentials web page. Enter both values, and click Save.

You should now see your VoicePulse account appear in your List of Service Providers. That is almost all ther eis to do! I did change one additional setting to get things going … I had read this on a page that I had Googled. To the right of your new entry, there is a pull-down menu labeled Options … select that menu, and then choose Advanced. On the dialog that appears, I put the value 5060 in the Port field. Click Update and you are done!

What is amazing is that you are now ready to go! That’s all there is to it. If you are familiar with Asterisk, you can now begin to configure both incoming and outgoing configurations! In my case I wanted to configure two additional items – a DialPlan that allowed me to make use of these new lines, and also add a new incoming number (DID).

To add access to these lines, I simply went into the Calling Rules in the AsteriskNOW admin portal, and added a new Calling Rule into my DialPlan … since I’ve been using the “dial 9” and “dial 8” convention for my other lines, I added a rule to “dial 7” to use the new VoicePulse channels. Done.

Then, to add my new phone number I simply went back to the VoicePulse portal, and selected their Numbers tab at the top. Scrolled down to where it says Add Phone Numbers I then selected my state, selected the area code, and then the city … and then chose a phone number. Clicking the Activate Selected button then activated my new number. Now to configure AsteriskNOW … I went back to my AsteriskNOW portal, and chose the Incoming Calls menu item. I then clicked the Add an Incoming Rule button and defined my new rule … All Unmatched incoming calls, from provider VoicePulse, to extension 5000 (one of my Ring Groups). Done.

Within 30 minutes, I called my new VoicePulse phone number, and my Ring Group was ringing … all too simple. I also went and grabbed a copy of X-Lite … a free SIP phone … and pointed it at my AsteriskNOW box … it connected right up and is working great!

AsteriskNOW – Upgrading Beta 6 to Release v1.0.2

AsteriskNOWAsterisk is one of the amazing projects of the Open Source world. AsteriskNOW takes that project even further by creating a complete turn-key package that is extremely easy to install and configure. With AsteriskNOW version Beta 6, I was able to take an old Dell PC that I had, buy two $20 cards, and set up a two line answering system with call menus and call routing … and voicemail that e-mails me attached .WAV files. Oh … and was able to do all of that in one evening … maybe 3-4 hours from start to finish.

Well, Beta 6 was released a while ago, and I’m now wanting to add some new ITSP (Internet Telephony Service Provider) services, and remote “over the Internet” phone extensions. In talking with the ITSP support people, I really needed to update to the released version of AsteriskNOW … v1.0.2 … and so I started looking around for the instructions on doing it … which wasn’t easy to locate. After the right combinations of keywords, Google finally pointed me at this article – [*NOW-1.0.1] Status: RELEASED!! (Officially) – which got me going in the right direction. As I’m walking through the steps right now, I figured that I would write about my experience … and add some more detail of my experiences …

  1. SSH into your AsteriskNOW box … using ‘admin’ and your password
  2. At the command prompt, you now want to use the following command to update ‘distro-release’:
    • sudo conary update distro-release
  3. You will see the output of the command scroll by, as the latest configuration settings and information for AsteriskNOW are retrieved
  4. When the update is completed, you’ll be dropped back to the command prompt
  5. Open a browser and point it to the rPath Appliance Platform Agent: http://{yourServer}:8002/rAA
  6. When the page opens, you’ll be asked to login. If you have never logged in here before, the default username is ‘admin’ and password is ‘password’. When doing this the first time you’ll have to complete a series of questions to configure this.
  7. Once you are logged into the rAA, there are a series of navigation links going down the left side … select “System Updates”
  8. On the page that appears, click the button to “Check” now for updates!
  9. You will see the page update with the status as the list of required updates is acquired.
  10. When this stage of the process is completed, the page will refresh, and a new button will appears that will allow you to “Apply” the updates.
  11. Click the Apply button. (Easy .. huh?)
  12. Now, you’ll get to watch the process of downloading and installing all of the required packages. In my case there were 154 packages, and the process was filled with all sorts of downloads, installs … and delays. And more delays. Why I’m writing this blog post is due to the huge delay that I am experiencing now … with 124 of 154 downloads done … and installing 118 of 154 updates. In reading more on-line … it appears that these hangs are common. Bummer.
  13. After 30+ minutes of hanging … I clicked away from the System Updates page. I then got back to it, but had all sorts of errors … crap … crap … crap …
  14. Chose the Reboot option. Said small prayer …
  15. Server failed to come up … went downstairs … it was shutdown. I powered it up …
  16. Came back to the rPath Appliance Platform Agent: http://{yourServer}:8002/rAA
  17. Had to accept a few more wizard questions … then I got back to the rAA page with left navigation links.
  18. Select “System Updates” … again …
  19. Now I have 68 downloads, and they are downloading and installing …
  20. After the process completes … you are told that the services are restarting!
  21. Reboot your server … just to clean things up …
  22. Go back into the rPath Appliance Platform Agent: http://{yourServer}:8002/rAA
  23. Select “System Updates” … mine had one more ‘kernel’ erase to get rid of an old kernel.
  24. Point your browser at the AsteriskNOW box … and …
  25. And now … it still doesn’t work! 🙁 Crap … crap … double-crap!
  26. I started to ask questions on the #asterisknow irc channel … (Thanks bkruse!)
  27. Looking in the logs I found an error loading modules from a bad path /usr/lib64/asterisk … I’m not using a 64 bit machine …
  28. SSH into your AsteriskNOW box … there is an error in the /etc/asterisk/asterisk.conf file …
  29. At the prompt enter: sudo vi /etc/asterisk/asterisk.conf
    • for some reason there was a reference to the /usr/lib64 directory for modules …
    • look for the line that reads: astmoddir => /usr/lib64/asterisk/modules
    • edit that line to now read: astmoddir => /usr/lib/asterisk/modules
    • save the file and then reboot the box .. again …
  30. Alrighty … open your browser and go to the admin page … crap. Nothing.
  31. More questions on the #asterisknow irc channel … (more thanks to bkruse!)
  32. SSH in to your AsteriskNOW box … again …
  33. At the prompt enter: sudo vi /etc/asterisk/http.conf
    • look for the line that reads: ;prefix = asterisk
    • edit the line to now read: prefix =
    • save the file and then reboot the box … again.
  34. Point your browser at the rPath Appliance Platform Agent: http://{yourServer}:8002/rAA
  35. You should be done now!

Now … I’m guessing that I could have maybe just done a good backup, and then installed the Release v1.0.2 and then restored from backup … however I couldn’t find ANY documentation that explained if that would work.

AsteriskAlso, your own experience might vary … from reading comments on the web page above, it seems that people have had hangs and lock-ups multiple times, and at different places during the update.  It seems that I was able to recover from most of the issues that I ran into.  The biggest resources in this case were Google and the IRC channel … using both of these allowed me to complete this process … although it took me the better part of the day to do so.  Another key to debugging was the various log files … make sure to look in /var/log/asterisk/messages … lots of good stuff there.

Even with all of the hassles, I have to admit that I am really impressed by Asterisk.  The next steps for me are to upgrade the cards that I’m using in the box … I’ve got some older X100P cards, and they work … but the quality is not the best.  I’m now about to sign up for VoicePulse to get new phone service for my wife’s business.  This will be the next step in using Asterisk for me.  Lastly, I ordered a S101I IAXy to create a remote line at her travel office in Salt Lake City.  Once I get that installed and working, we’ll be able to integrate with their PBX and have her admin answer the phone for her when she is not available …

I’m looking forward to having it all working!  If it goes well, then I’m buying a second phone number from VoicePulse for my new company …

Man Machine Interface Improvements … Rats and Monkeys

I love to follow the advances in Man/Machine interfaces. From a long time back people have been experimenting with both invasive and non-invasive interfaces, using a variety of methods to monitor both brain and nerve signals.

Neural implants continue to make huge advances, and the probes and various hardware required are also advancing rapidly. When you look at companies like Cyberkinetics (Actually Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc. with R&D here in Salt Lake City, Utah) they have an expanding product line which includes the BrainGate Neural Interface System:

The BrainGate Neural Interface System is an investigational medical device that is being developed to improve the quality of life for physically disabled people by allowing them to quickly and reliably control a wide range of devices including computers, environmental controls, robotics and medical devices.

Besides the presentations about Jesse Sullivan – the “bionic man” – that I have seen, I just saw the most impressive demonstrations on YouTube … of course. I was actually watching the History Channel at home the other night and saw a short clip about the Roborat. Well … YouTube had the Roborat video, and if you haven’t seen it …. you’ve got to watch it. Researchers have now inserted probes into the brain of a rat to allow remote control of the rat! They even added a wireless webcam to allow the controller to see what the rat is seeing.

The part of this that is wild is that neural stimulation is being used to both cause the rat to turn left or right, but also to stimulate the pleasure center of the brain to provide reinforcement for the actions. The rat will continue to learn to “obey” the senses driving it, in order to gain the pleasure stimulation.

This is a variation of the research being done with monkeys and additional appendages. Check out this YouTube video of Monkeys controlling a Robotic Arm through thought! With arrays of neural probes inserted into their brain, a computer monitors the brain activity and moves the arm. The monkeys have actually learned how to control their brain activity to cause the intended motions. Feeding themselves with a robotic arm …

Now … if Ray Kurzweil is right, and we’ll eventually be able to perform neural stimulation through blood-borne nanomachines, then this type of work could be done non-invasively … or at least not having to go through the skull. Imagine that you might just get injected with a syringe of nanomachines that have the ability to stimulate your neurons … and turn you into a remote control human! 🙂