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Converged Networks Threat (Was: Level3 Outage)

  • From: Jared Mauch
  • Date: Wed Feb 25 10:54:35 2004


	I can't sit by here while people speculate about the possible
problems of a network outage.

	I think that most everyone here reading NANOG realizes that
the Internet is becoming more and more central to daily life even
for those that are not connected to the internet.

	From where i'm sitting, I see a number of potentially dangerous
trends that could result in some quite catastrophic failures of networks.
No, i'm not predicting that the internet will end in 8^H7 days or anything
like that.  I think the Level3 outage as seen from the outside is a clear
case that single providers will continue to have their own network failures
for time to come.  (I just hope daily it's not my employers network ;-) )

	So, We're sitting here at the crossroads, where VoIP is 
"coming of age".  Vonage, 8x8 and others are blazing a path that
the rest of the providers are now beginning to gun for.  We've already
read in press releases and articles in the past year how providers
in Canada and the US are moving to VoIP transport within their long-distance

	I keep hear of Frame-Relay and ATM signaling that is going
to happen in large providers MPLS cores.  That's right, your "safe" TDM
based services, will be transported over someones IP backbone first.
This means if they don't protect their IP network, the TDM services could
fail.  These types of CES services are not just limited to Frame and ATM.
(Did anyone with frame/atm/vpn services from Level3 experience the
same outage?)

	Now the question of Emergency Services is being posed here but also
in parallel by a number of other people at the FCC.  We've seen the E911
recommendation come out regarding VoIP calls.  How long until a simple
power failure results in the inability to place calls?

	Now, i'm not trying to pick on Level3 at all.  The trend I
outline here is very real.  The reliance on the Internet for critical
communications is a trend that continues.  Look at how it was used
on 9/11 for communications when cell and land based telephony networks
were crippled.

	The internet has become a very critical part of all of our lives
(some more than others) with banks using VPNs to link their ATMs back into
their corporate network as well as the number of people that use it for
just plain "just in time" bill payment and other things.  I can literally
cancel my home phone line, cell phone and communicate soley with my
internet connection, performing all my bill payments without any paperwork.
I can even file my taxes online.

	We're at (or already past) the dangerous point of network
convergence.  While I suspect that nobody directly died as a result of
the recent outage, the trend to link together hospitals, doctors
and other agencies via the Internet and a series of VPN clients continues
to grow.  (I say this knowing how important the internet is to
the medical community, reading x-rays and other data scans at home for the
oncall is quite common).

	While my friends that are local VFD do still have the traditional
pager service with towers, etc... how long until the T1's that are
used for dial-in or speaking to the towers are moved to some sort of
IP based system?  The global economy seems to be going this direction with
varying degrees of caution.

	I'm concerned, but not worried.. the network will survive..

	- Jared

On Wed, Feb 25, 2004 at 09:17:30AM -0600, Pete Templin wrote:
> If an IP-based system lets you see the status of the 23 hospitals in San 
> Antonio graphically, perhaps overlaid with near-real-time traffic 
> conditions, I'd rather use it as primary and telephone as secondary.
> Counting on it?  No.  Gaining usability from it?  You betcha.
> Brian Knoblauch wrote:
> >	If you're counting on IP (a "best attempt" protocol) for critical
> >data, you've got a serious design flaw in your system...
> >
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]] On Behalf Of 
> >Pete
> >Templin
> >Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2004 9:10
> >To: Colin Neeson
> >Cc: [email protected]
> >Subject: Re: Level 3 statement concerning 2/23 events (nothing to see, move
> >along)
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >Are you sure no one died as a result?  My hobby is volunteering as a 
> >firefighter and EMT.  If Level3's network sits between a dispatch center 
> >or mobile data terminal and a key resource, it could be a factor 
> >(hospital status website, hazardous materials action guide, VoIP link 
> >that didn't reroute because the control plane was happy but the 
> >forwarding plane was sad, etc.).
> >
> >And if the problem could happen to another network tomorrow but could be 
> >prevented or patched, wouldn't inquiring minds want to know?  Your life 
> >might be more interesting when the fit hits the shan if you have the 
> >same vulnerability.
> >
> >Colin Neeson wrote:
> >
> >
> >>Because, in the the grand scale scheme of things, it's really not that
> >>important.
> >>
> >>No one died because of it, the normal, everyday events of the world 
> >>went
> >>on,
> >>unaffected by a Level 3 outage...
> >>
> >>Might be nice to know what happened, but my life will certainly not be
> >>less interesting by not having that knowledge...

Jared Mauch  | pgp key available via finger from [email protected]
clue++;      |  My statements are only mine.