Friday, November 11, 2011

Crossing bridges

Back to our story (finally!). I've talked about our transition from VMware to Hyper-V. It's still working well for us, no regrets there. I mentioned we dropped Symantec Client Security for Vipre Enterprise - that's also been a good choice. So what's left to simplify?

Hmm ... communications between our US facility and our México facility remained problematic. We have a Mitel hybrid digital/VoIP system, with IP phones in México connecting over VPN to the switch in the US. What else? Oh yes, that legacy UUNet T-1 which I so love for its quality but that Verizon is raping us for. Symantec has managed to make a mess out of Altiris app virtualization. Did I mention that I really dislike ISA Server? Exchange is starting to annoy me too. And our EMC CX-300 storage array is nearing capacity.

Well, let's talk about communication. I'm loving the Mitel 5000 platform - it does what we need and brings some nice integrations to the table - voicemail and faxes in your email inbox for one, find-me-follow-me for another. But we don't have local México calling capability, since the switch is in the US. And, as always, we need more bandwidth - and that means talking to vendors.

Mitel has a group of network specialists operating out of an office in Northern California. Since Mitel owned our phone system, I thought I'd give them a shot at our circuit business. Didn't last long - the child on the phone tried to lecture me on why three nines and no SLA was better than five nines with an SLA (99.9% uptime vs 99.999% uptime). I've been in the business thirty years, longer than this twenty-something has been alive. I'll take 26 seconds of downtime per month over 43 minutes any day.

I eventually settled on Tele-Pacific for the US facility and G-Tel for the México facility. We didn't have any nearby fiber at the US site, so we were stuck with copper. 1 PRI and 4 bonded T-1s for data with a lovely SLA promising 99.999% uptime, all for just slightly more than we were paying Verizon for a PRI and my beloved UUNet T-1.

México was slightly more problematic. It seems that copper is valuable and gets stolen frequently. In fact our first maquila facility often experienced communication downtime due to copper theft. Our new facility had fibre nearby, but it was aboveground on poles and I didn't think copper thieves could tell the difference. So G-Tel offered us wireless E-1 circuits, with the option to switch to fibre if we weren't happy. We had a nice line-of-sight to the little mountain with the G-Tel towers as well as to two or three meshed repeater sites. I ended up buying 1 PRI and 3 bonded E-1s and have been happy with them for the last year.

The final step was to drop a Mitel 5000 switch into the México server rack and network it with the Mitel 5000 switch in the US. Not only do we have the ability to dial internally between México and the US, we can hand-off external calls between systems so that neither facility pays international calling charges for US or México calls.

Our CFO says saving money is fun. So is having extra features.