A look at undersea cables

Browsing through Digg today, I chanced across this article about Google expanding their undersea cable portfolio. Aside from increasing the inter-Asian bandwidth by over 7Tb/s, it will be Google’s 2nd undersea cable, the first being the transPacific cable known as “Unity”. As recently as a year ago, the first cable was just a rumor. In February, they confirmed that it would be in place and operational by 2010. The first article I linked to also mentions that Google is looking at an African fiber to replace the aging SAT-3 cable. Offhand, to give you some idea of the magnitude of the new fiber, SAT-3’s bandwidth is a paltry 130Gb/s.

What does this have to do with small systems administration? Not much specifically, to be honest, but it’s interesting to me. I look at the global fiber network as a maybe a macrocosm of my own network. I look at the global fiber maps and note the critical junctures, the (sometimes lack of) redundant bandwidth in certain corners of the world.

If you’re interested in this as well, here are some interesting links that I found.

Eyeball-series.org has a couple of pages dedicated to mapping the exact spots where each of the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific cable landings. This is a very, very bandwidth intensive page. Far more interesting are the maps at the top of each page that shows the logical circuits. Here, I’ll save you time and bandwidth: Atlantic and Pacific.

This map from CNET gives you some idea of the intercontinental bandwidth available around the globe.

Here is a series of maps showing the history of undersea cables.

If you’re curious as to how many cables are out there, Wikipedia has a page dedicated to listing all the cables in the individual bodies of water. The main page on submarine communications cables has a great schematic of the composition of undersea cables. How cool does this look:

Password retention and storage

I got an email from a reader yesterday asking about how I generated and stored my passwords securely. The reader was interested in what methods were available to sysadmins for managing diverse passwords for different machines and devices.

I had to laugh at my password generation scheme (run ‘fortune’ a couple of times, pick some random words and throw a random character between them), and my password storage is nothing to brag about either.

What methods do you use in your infrastructure to generate / store passwords?

When is a sysadmin not a sysadmin?

I really like my job. I love connecting complex bits of hardware into a working infrastructure. Taking inanimate bits and making a living, breathing network out of them is exciting. It’s the best model train set you could ask for.

There are also parts of my job that I intensely dislike. I’m not talking about the “just sort of unpleasant” tasks like user support. I don’t actually mind helping people out. Part of my job is making sure other people can do theirs, and as such, I don’t mind lending a hand.

What I don’t like are generic administrative tasks that only take time away from the rest of my duties. Here, I’m talking about things like changing tapes, keeping track of users’ software licenses, and more to the point, dealing with billing details for network contracts.

I received a voicemail today, forwarded to me by someone in the corporate office regarding our Level3 account. When we moved out of the downtown NYC office months ago, and we cancelled our Level3 account, but from everything I can figure, they didn’t cancel our Level3 account. Now I’ve got to try to get a person on the phone from Level3 to figure out what is going on. I’m not worried that we actually owe them anything, because I’ve got the email from them with the disconnect order, but the rigamarole in making them understand that isn’t shaping up very well. Last night at 5:00pm, I sat on hold for 45 minutes before I gave up and went home. I’ll try again this morning, but I’m not anticipating a good experience.

Let me advise you this, to stay away from Level3 for your dedicated circuits, because getting any kind of help from them is next to impossible, and the service wasn’t even great to begin with. They are the only bandwidth provider I’ve ever have who gave me a hard time about trying to contact an internal engineer. I needed to ask questions about the MLPPP-bonded T1s I was going to try, and it took 2 months to get their guy to call me back. To make matters more fun, every single contact there in my contact list has fled, so I don’t even have a real person’s name or number who works there. Stay away.