PlanetOne put on a training/promo thing called Road Show 2004. They did one in Reston, VA. Dad and I went. The first day was at MCI Headquarters. This place is HUMONGOUS! It’s a couple of times the size of Dulles Airport. This thing has grand stonework. Very nice (read: expensive) architecture. Built-in Starbucks clone. This was all built before they went bankrupt. One can see why they went bankrupt.
Our MCI trainer reminded me incredibly much of Reese Witherspoon of Legally Blond fame. She had brown hair, but her face looked a lot like RW and even her little facial expressions…
I, being young and raised with IP style networking, was amazed at how obtusely legacy “networking” was set up. They did what was called “full mesh.” With five remote offices that needed to be connected, they needed a fractional T1 with 15 statically allocated PVC (private virtual connection). One between each office!! This meant that if office 1 sent something to office 2, it could only use that fractional allocation rather than dynamically allocating. First I laughed at the legacy, then I had to laugh cause they were touting this wonderful “new” Private IP service as a replacement. You are, of course, talking $800-1000 bucks per location (versus $2000-3000 a location the old way). This, of course, using the very fundamental tenets of IP, allows all that bandwith to go to a single location and a single switch and be dynamically allocated, end result: More bandwith, less links, less money. That’s great. That’s not what I’m laughing at. What I’m lauging at is while they’re paying $700-800 a month, I can do that with Cable, Wireless, and DSL and open source VPN/Firewall software for about $60-80 a month a location. I understand who their customers will be, and they will get customers. It’s those customers without an IT dept., those custs w/out the desire to worry about their own system, those custs that have extremely high bandwith needs (+1 Mbps), those custs that need a guaranteed latency of less than 40 ms, those custs that need MPLS (a protocol that prioritizes traffic (i.e. VidIP goes first, then VoIP, realtime data, web, email, files transfer…); the funny thing is, I can do that traffic prioritization for next to nothing).
MCI has 10-15 thousand employees working there at their headquarters. Their building is about 2/3 full. They said they were going to give us a NOC (Network Operations Center) tour. They took us into this room with a thick oaken conference table and tons of plush leather chairs all around. One wall comprised of what looked like a mirror that was totally frosted over with whiteness, the two other walls had rich trims and nice wallpaper or something, and another screen had a projector screen. At this point I thought we were going to see a Powerpoint (I got SO tired of those by the end of the second day…) presentation of the NOC. He asked someone to flip a switch on the wall. The “mirror” went from total opacity to clarity, revealing a huge room full of computers (200+). It was the length of two football fields. The entire opposite wall was filled with huge screens. There was a console screen on a couple of them pinging various circuits. There was another that showed which circuits were down. Another had a graphical representation of all the MCI circuits. Another was running the Weather Channel (so they could route traffic around inclement weather. Another was running CNN Headline News. One of the computers had a cool Matrix Screensaver. All in all it was one cool place. It would of been a really cool place even if I didn’t mention the fact that there was 250+ Gbps of bandwith running through there.
I had a great time talking with various MCI geeks. One of the guys looked just like a classic UNIX geek. He looked really great. He was the one I talked with the most extensively; eFax was his brainchild. He was the guy totally in charge of creating and developing it. I talked with him about BitTorrent and VoIP among the many topics broached. Another guy I talked with sat on the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force; Google). He was a major force in designing SIP (Session Initiation Protocol; Google; SIP is used in VoIP).
The next day’s proceedings were held at River Creek Country Club. Gorgeous place. One of the PlanetOne guys said, “When the meetings are at places like this, you make sure you get a one hour speaking thing, and then get there about 2-3 days early to ’set up.’” Dad got us a little lost getting there. We were worried we’d be late. We were the first ones besides the PlanetOne staff and the vendors who were giving presentations. 26 people had reserved bookings. 7 canceled. 5, besides Dad and I, showed up. The CEO/Owner, Ted, was swearing a blue streak. He was “mad as h***!” He calmed himself and we got started (2 hours late). Before each vendor would get up to give their 50-75 min presentation, he would get up and say all sorts of nice things about that particular company. After he introduced one guy, the guy said, “I’m not sure there’s room in this room for the rest of you after that, ’cause of my big head!” Ted’s COO, Rick, said, “That’s a switch! It’s usually Ted with the big head!” Ted said, “Still is!” At one point Ted came around and took all our business cards for a drawing. The only one I had was an old moldy one with a phone number on the back. I put it in and Ted said, “You sure you want to put that one in? It has a phone number on the back.” I took it out, a bit embarrased, and scribbled it out and put the card back in. He got Dad’s and then came back and whispered to me, “Was she cute?”
Ted and his company are quite the party types. (They send their largest agents to a vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; they had a slideshow going of last year’s) Ted introduced another vendor’s speaker, and he said, “Our companies get along well. We have similiar corporate cultures.” He said this in a loaded, funny way. He proceeded to say some things about how when a CEO is down there losing sentinence after ingesting various types of “stupid” (his word) beverages and throwing people of a certain gender over said CEO’s shoulder, you know it’s a fun company to work for. After the first session at MCI, they went to a bar and watched the Red Sox beat the Cardinals. After the second day, they went to a high end restaraunt for dinner and then to the Platinum Night Club. Both times Dad and I…went to revival meetings. Ted bought everyone a round of drinks after the second day’s meetings. I asked Rick if I could get alternative compensation because I was underage. Him and another guy laughed and the other guy, an AT&T rep, said, “You’ll just have to eat lots of cheese.” (there were snacks set out) Dad and I finally decided that since there weren’t any Mennonite ministers around watching that we would go ahead and order a drink apiece. We knew that this posh country club with these rich clientele wouldn’t ask for ID. So we both ordered a Pina Colada…without alcohol.