Least Sucky Backbone Provider

Adam Rothschild asr+nanog at latency.net
Tue Nov 6 06:38:25 UTC 2007

On 2007-11-05-10:51:58, Gregory Boehnlein <damin at nacs.net> wrote:
> I'm considering dropping Cogent completely [...]

Always a good idea.

> 1. Level 3
> 2. MCI/Verizon
> 3. AT&T
> I'm looking for comments from actual customers of the above providers in
> relation to;
> 1. Network reliability and performance

As Vijay reminds us time and time again, engineering a large,
reliable, network isn't particularly difficult these days.  Indeed,
none of the candidates you name above suffer from major reliability

> 2. Responsiveness to outages
> 3. Proactive notification of network maintenance

All large providers lack in these areas, some more than others.  Even
with preferred support, it's not uncommon to get asked if you get dial
tone on your OC-48, or if 10GE is "like a T1" -- I do, weekly.  Plan

With that in mind, key differentiators I'd focus on when selecting a
transit provider include provisioning intervals, tools/automation,
routing policy/feature support, and reachability to specific ASNs.

I'd summarize the above vendors as follows.  Please forgive the
rambling, and if you deem any of this off topic, kindly hit the 'd'
key and spare us the chatter.  (Me personally, I consider vendor
reviews and pseudo-arch discussions like this fascinating and acutely
on-topic, though I can see where others may disagree...)

Level(3) (AS 3356, not legacy Wiltel, Broadwing): All in all,
thoroughly "gets it".  Robust implementation of inbound and outbound
BGP communities; prefix-list auto-generation off IRR; working
blackhole community; IPv6 support, though tunneled.  Support folk are
smarter than average; provisioning times are slower than average.
Large collection of "eyeball" customers.

Verizon Business (AS 701, formerly UUNET, MCI, et al): Solid as a
rock, though beginning to show its age.  Supports a blackhole
community (kudos to cmorrow, et al, for setting the trend there),
though few/coarse others outbound.  No inbound communities; 1995
called and asked for its as-path filters back :-).  Older equipment
(Juniper M40, Cisco 12008 w/ E0-E3 cards, ...) is still common in the
edge, thus availability of 10GE customer ports is sparse outside of
specific hotels.  Presents frequently on, but is not yet equipped to
offer, IPv6 customer connectivity.  Significant eyeball base,
specifically Verizon DSL and FTTx customers.

AT&T (AS 7018): Solid connectivity and architecture; sharp folk who
are also active in the NANOG community (tscholl, ren, jayb, ...).
Significant eyeball base as represented by AT&T (SBC, Ameritech,
BellSouth) DSL/FTTx customers and various cable MSOs, though the
latter is slowly dwindling.  With that said, it is important to
realize that their commodity IP product is tailored towards
enterprises with leased lines, not your typical NANOG/SP demographic.
Accordingly, some friendly advice here would be to lay out your
specific requirements (wrt communities, prefix listing, source address
verification, IP ACLs, dampening, ...) as a part of the contract/RFP
process, lest you might find yourself frustrated by various defaults.

-a (speaking on behalf of himself only)

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