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Saturday, June 30, 2018
My most ever challenging project
some reason this topic came up as a question in quite a few
interviews. Though I remember "my
most challenging project"
rather well, I tend to leave it out from the discussions, due to
several reasons (and
as it sounds too fantastic).
was just after Y2K (2000) era, when humans realized that the world
wasn't going to destroy itself due to the limitations of the date
problem in early computers...Our journey with Karma had just ended
and I was hunting hight and low, when a fellow friend, who was the
CEO of a major IT Project company, in Turkey (I
this article with his kind permission).
I had signed up to work on project basis, ranging from networking
hardware to complex IT tender projects
enough a "Mission
project landed on my desk. Turkish Directorate of Motorways -(TCK was and still is
one of the major gov't tenderers in Turkey)
had recently opened a tender for data connectivity project for the
Istanbul's two Bosphorus Bridges datacentre's.(As there are toll booths on both bridges, the data used be collected to
huge tapes then manually shipped to the hq datacenter, which of
a huge vulnerability).
first glance in 2018, the project may seem quite simple, but in early
2000 era of Turkey, where fiber connectivity was only a myth. Most of
the city’s internetworking backbone was built on dialups and copper
cables which were connected over tens of pops.. Due to the extremely
low quality cabling, excessive pop usage, speeds over 2 Mbps (async
ofc!) was only a dream. Whilst the Telecom was still trying to hurdle
with the leased copper lines, though it was available in selected
locations, ISDN was part of the dream; even then 4-5 128kbit lines
didn’t solve anything.
the TCK had a huge bottleneck as trying to link both bridges’
datacenters into one, generally meant for the offering companies to
use at least 2x 2 Mbit copper Leased lines over approx. 20 pop
locations. Of course this means huge hardware as the day had it’s
value for the project was around $ 2m.
course, first alternative that came to my mind was to lay a 5 km of
fiber cable under the Bosphorus Sea. Though it seemed reasonable, it
still was risky as Istanbul is known for it’s unsolicited
constructions, yes, even underwater and as the govt’s offices were
so disconnected from each other, they usually wouldn’t even bother
letting the other party know that they are going to dig in their
turf, until they damage something :)) ; plus, Bosphorus Sea itself
isn’t a soft cookie. It’s known for its strong currents, which
generally meant extra shielded fiber wires needed to be used with a
lot of slack. When we added the costs it came close to $ 2m, which
didn’t really leave much profit for us.
What wireless? We are talking about year 2002. How can you get a
secure wireless singal over 5 km and achieve 2Mbit data connectivity
didn’t know it was possible and most of you out there, still do not
know that it is possible !
With a long flight to Canada and vast R &
D, I was convinced that it was possible; at least it was possible to
send 155 Mbit at full duplex over 4 km and the company was
promising that weather conditions such as rain, fog, snow didn’t
matter. After the nda, we shared our project with the manufacturer
who mainly served on military contract, which were actually
fascinated with the idea. They were so fascinated, they even decided
to support the project !
challenges were that the direct line distance from A to B was about
5 kms (4.9) and the range of the device was limited to 3 km (2.8
guaranteed). This simply meant we needed a pop somewhere in the
middle, perhaps on a cell tower or something even higher ! Also due
to the technology of the products all the transreceivers had to see
one and other over a certain degree range.
still don’t know what I am talking about do you ? OK, no need for
mystery. There’s a technology that exists since the late 90’s and
is widely used where cable or radio signal connectivity isn’t
possible :)) Yeah I know. I drooled too.
called FSO – Free Space Optics. You can read all about what
it is here. Similar technology is currently used today to transmit live
HD video from the ISS to earth and enabling us to view it over
YouTube live. Though our goal was to obtain the “AFAP” (as far
as possible + as fast as possible) fSONA can obtain around 2.Gbit
data rate over shorter distances today.
Space Optics (FSO), also called Free Space Photonics (FSP) or Optical
Wireless, refers to the transmission of modulated visible or infrared
(IR) beams through the atmosphere to obtain broadband communications.
FSO systems can function over distances of several kilometers. As
long as there is a clear line of sight between the source and the
destination, and enough transmitter power, communication is
theoretically possible. Like fiber, FSO uses lasers to transmit data,
but instead of enclosing the data stream in a glass fiber, it is
transmitted through the air.
A Nutshell - FSO transmits invisible, eye-safe light beams from
one "telescope" to another using low power infrared lasers
in the teraHertz spectrum, where capacity can reasonably be expected
to reach 10 Gbps. The light beam carries whatever optical
transmission signal (layer 2 or MAC) and protocol framing a
manufacturer chooses to market, typically SONET/ATM and 10/100/1000
Ethernet. Plus, unlike other free space communication systems, FSO
doesn’t require licensing.
admit it took me a while to convince my friend who actually had put
me up to this task as this technology was quite unknown then and it
still is pretty much unknown in today’s IT world.
most amusing part was that all equipment and the installation cost
was merely $ 400k ! On the day of the tender, it was quite crowded,
probably around 30 companies, some are tendering, the rest just
expected, first offer was from one of the leading IT project
companies and their offer was to go use 2 x 2Mbps LL coppers over 20
pops and hops which guaranteed 1.5 Mbps over the low quality and
totally untrustable backbone of Istanbul at a round figure of $ 1.7m.
The reason for 2x LL was to achieve the redundancy as well as to load
balance the traffic. (But, I can’t help still thinking, wtf is
the point of having 2x copper wires going through the same route,
same potholes etc. as they are bound together for damage !)
of the offers in the specific tender were based on copper wire
technologies and they just played around the prices on their
active/passive hardware via the discounts on their GPLs. The price
was as low as $ 1.4m, until we stepped in. Our starting offfer was
around 20% lower than the closest competitor and a huge gap of 144
Mbps in full duplex !
still remember that moment quite well as all the heads suddenly
turned towards us like a herd of penguins!! There were quite few
synical grins by the “pro’s of the trade” like it was
some kind of a joke being told. After a 5 minute presentation, TCK
had to decide that there’s no reason for a 2nd round to
tender. After selection of a substute, there was a huge rowl in the
room people screaming in pain and distress ! 😂😂😄😄
a rookie conqueror, I remember that moment quite well. With a simple
proactive thinking and deep research I had managed to defeat the top
10 brands and the pro-IT companies which were left clueless ; which
several of them went far enough to threaten us with legal proceedings
due to their misery!
was until next Monday that my victory celebrations lasted, when the
company owner, who reminded me that I was the leader of the project
which didn’t only consist of the sales part of the project, but
also the supervision of the installation as I had agreed previously.
project proposal actually consisted of placing 2x beacons on the
highest point of the two Bosphorus Bridges as well as installing 2x
beacons on a antenna tower (approx. 45m high) at the center
location as a bridge point. (and I always thought the firm had
technicians to install the devices!!!).
one to bail out was the manufacturer, then the company’s other
techies 😀😀😄 as the distance to place the beacons were as high as 170m
from sea level (approx. 70m from the carriage way to the peak of
the carrier towers) on a tiny platform as wide as 3 x 4 m !!
Though I tried to explain to my fellow technicians that all towers
consisted of elevators to take them up, I guess I wasn’t very
as being one of the fortunate ones to experience the 1999 Izmit
earthquake (7.6 magnitude) on a high tower apartment, I knew what it
feels like to be in a high altitude when the ground is moving. As
both of the Bosphorus Bridges are suspension bridges, they relatively
move around even when you are on the carriage way. But being on a
12m2 platform, 70m higher and in open-air…….. … ---
I was an adrenaline junkie until that day and I had never had
experienced any anxiety whatsoever.
it took approx. 4 months for the goods to be shipped from Canada to
Turkey; enough time to get used to the idea of working at high
altitude. Luckily I had managed to convince two professional
mountaineers from Middle Eastern Technical University to assist me on my quest….
that day, I had thought I had completed my “most challenging project”….
was sometime in 2002 a cloudy Spring day that was scheduled for the
climb on the primary tower of Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge. It took us
around an hour to carry the equipment to the leg of the bridge, where
we loaded them onto the service elevator for the ascension 😇😇
the climb began, I had alreay calculated the wind, the vibration but
what I hadn’t taken into consideration was the flexibility ratio of
the steel-reinforced concrete tower! Honestly, I have lived that
moment in my nightmares for several years.
we were in the final chamber, it was much smaller than I had
expected. Though scene was spectacular, I realized there was no
reason to wear the safety helmet as incase of a mishap, it wouldn’t
really matter on which part of my body I would land on 😆😆😆😆 Although
we were securely harnessed to the rails by double safety belts (to
move around you need to detach/attach one belt at a time) due to
the gushing winds as well as the flexing tower (I would have never
guessed that concrete would flex so much) I could hardly standup
(yeah also due to the height LOL!). For a second or so, for a reason
that I could not comprehend I had wished to try base jumping from
that point. I guess it would have been more fun.
course as we hadn’t unpacked the goods on the ground level, we had
to cancel the event and head back to the ground level to re-prepare.
On the 2nd trial it was more comforting than the first
mockup as the boxes were unpacked and everything was nearly ready to
go. After 2 hours of drilling the reinforced concrete, we managed to
fixate the beacon on the tower and install the network cable behind
it all the way down the elevator shaft. I even had managed to get few
shots on my 2MP Kodak camera !
the rest wasn’t child’s play. Though I didn’t have to climb to
the top of the bridging tower in the center, I had to do the climbing
once again on the old Bosphorus Bridge, which was about the same
height, the concrete was crumbly and it rocked like a cradle. After a
month of constant climbs, tests, I had managed to complete the
project on time and hand it over to the offfice doodes who think
themselves are real technicians 😈😈😈
think it was around then I had got the idea to get married and settle
down...sigh...I wish I was on top of that tower instead now (at
least I had harnesses)….
it worth it ?
Hell Yeah ! Let's go again !
fSONA - http://www.fsona.com
Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free-space_optical_communication