Thursday, May 19, 2005

When Redundancy Isn't Enough for Packet 8

Andy Abramson - VoIP Watch



Even with redundant servers in their network architecture Packet 8 seems over the last few days to have a problem keeping it up, as yesterday alone the Santa Clara company had two outages of the thirty minute variety, on top of an outage outage last week.
Like Vonage has claimed in the past, it was due to a "server" malfunction related to an upgrade. Packet 8 in an email reply to my questions said "upon further investigation, I (we-sic) learned that the recent Packet8 service outages were caused by a server malfunction brought on by a software glitch associated with the feature upgrade we are currently implementing. This problem has been resolved and we are adding new servers to the network tomorrow while also telling me they have redundancy in their network.
Back in the 80s, when I was named office manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, on top of my other PR and Amateur Hockey related responsibilities with the NHL club, my first lesson about telephony came at the hands of a telephone company veteran installer, Joe Patrone. Much of what I know about installations of anything came from the 30 some year veteran of both Bell of PA and then post divestiture AT&T. Joe was "the phone guy." Smart, personable and most of all he knew how to get it done, Patrone told me well before we installed the new System 75 switch in the Spectrum to replace our aging Dimension 400 PBX that when we did it, we would maintain the 400 and the extensions associated with it until after the cutover was complete. That meant basically while he was installing the new hardware, new lines and new handsets, the old stuff would still be working. And then, when the new digital equipment was turned on, phones would ring on two handsets until HE and WE were sure that the system was at least doing what the old system already did, before the whiz bang features would be rolled out.
It was humorous to see people with two phones on their desk back then, but practical. Our install went smooth, and the cutover, done in phases, was fairly painless. Sure there was the wrong termination of this or that extension, but before we did the cutover for things like Off Premise lines to the Chairman's house, the practice rink, etc., we made sure everything was working in the company's own version of a Central Office.
So given how I did my first "upgrade" of any magnitude back in the 80's in the era of analog and new digital it often makes me wonder, how in the all digital age, even with redundancy in place, the kinds of outages we're seeing from many of the VoIP carriers across the board can happen. I mean, even if the network itself is redundant, shouldn't ALL the hardware telling the network what to do be so too? I'm sure the Joe Patrone approach may be viewed as old school, but if your job, like my job, was being evaluated on how well things like the System 75 cutover went, then you could bet I'd want his philosophy in place in my company.

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