Outsourcing a modem pool for dialup? Any advice?

Ted Mittelstaedt tedm at toybox.placo.com
Sat Jun 11 11:27:35 GMT 2005

>-----Original Message-----
>From: owner-freebsd-questions at freebsd.org
>[mailto:owner-freebsd-questions at freebsd.org]On Behalf Of Philip
>Sent: Friday, June 10, 2005 9:58 AM
>To: Ted Mittelstaedt
>Cc: freebsd-questions at freebsd.org
>Subject: RE: Outsourcing a modem pool for dialup? Any advice?
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: owner-freebsd-questions at freebsd.org
>>> [mailto:owner-freebsd-questions at freebsd.org]On Behalf Of Philip
>>> Hallstrom
>>> Sent: Thursday, June 09, 2005 10:38 AM
>>> To: freebsd-questions at freebsd.org
>>> Subject: Outsourcing a modem pool for dialup? Any advice?
>>> Hi all -
>>> 	Our company has a product such that a small server is
>installed at
>>> each customer site.  This server dials up to the Internet
>every night
>>> and exchanges some content with a central server in our data center.
>>> Total transaction takes about 5 minutes.
>>> Customers can have multiple sites.  Our largets to date has
>three, but
>>> some potentials have several hundred.
>>> In the cases where the site does not have an existing Internet
>>> connection we currently use dialup via a major ISP.
>>> This works for now, but won't for the long haul for a couple of
>>> reasons:
>>> - they all are all sharing the same username and password
>(yes yes, I
>>> know...)
>>> - we're moving into canada and this ISP doesn't have many
>local numbers
>>> up there.
>>> - Dealing with local numbers and their somewhat frequent
>changing is a
>>> real headache.
>> OK. Now then, am I assuming that if you go the 800 number route then
>> that you will be billing the customers for the LD usage on
>that or are
>> you going to eat it?
>>> What I want is a modem pool with one local number (tied into an 800
>>> number) where I can create as many username/password pairs
>as needed.
>>> I want that local number to never change :-)
>> Totally unnecessary since your using an 800 number.  If the
>local number
>> changes you just repoint the 800 number to the new local number.
>Mostly, but this way I can configure the local number first
>(1-xxx-xxx-xxxx) and then the 800 number so sites that allow
>long distance
>calls get billed for the call instead of us...  saves a bit of money...

You cannot setup an 800 number to charge the caller.  If you are
thinking of using the 800 as a failover number in the config then
you go right back the same problem, which is that if the outsourcer
changes the phone number you are screwed.

This is yet another reason for running your own pool.  If you own your
own local phone number it isn't going to change.

>>> Now... to make it fun...
>>> - No, I can't install a dialup server in our corporate datacenter.
>> Why not?  This is so calling out for you to run your own
>dialup server
>> that it is unbelievable.
>Ah... I am glad I am not the only one who thinks that!!! :-)
>Believe me... I could write volumes on why this isn't going to happen.
>Well, it might, but only if I can show that outsourcing is
>going to cost
>zillions of dollars.. and that's not even getting to the paperwork
>process.  I've tried before.  1.5 years later I haven't gotten
>any closer.

Outsourcing will indeed cost a lot more than if you do it yourself.

Not zillions, but certainly many thousands more a year if you pay someone
to do it.  My goodness, do your bosses think that the outsourcers do
this for free, that there is some kind of economy of scale you
take advantage of?

Let me tell you a little secret - dialup outsourcers only sell their
services to THREE types of customers.  The first type are ISPs that are
failures.  The second type are ISP's that have their own modem pools
in whatever service areas they are in, and are playing around with
seeing if they can make money with national or expanded coverage.
(very difficult for a small ISP without their own national network)
The last type are corporations who either have too much money to
waste, or have nobody competent working for them.  In all 3 of these
cases the customer isn't choosing outsourcing over doing it themselves,
instead they are forced into outsourcing because no other choices are
options for them.  And the outsourcers know it and if your given a
market, aren't you going to bleed them dry?

Virtually everyone else in the business, if they have an option of
running their own modem pool, either because they have the money, or
because they have the competence, they are going to do it.  Providing
dialup service is one of the fundamental products of an ISP and if
they can't do even that, they are really in a bad way. And today
the secondary market is full of terminal servers that you can pick up
for a song, from all the failed ISP's from the late 90's.  And
today corporations are mostly doing VPN for road warriors and have
tossed what dialup support they might have offered in the past.

If I were in your shoes I would simply setup my own modem pool in
my garage and incorporate, then sell the service to my employer at
a fee.  Why not, it's like being given free money.  Once
the pool is setup and running it consumes very little maintainence

I know that commercial dialup wholesalers can blanket you with fancy
business analysis that prove they are saving you money, but this is
a bunch of bullshit.  You are going to pay more to pay an outsourcer
to do it for you no matter how you slice it.

>>> - No, I can't setup a freebsd server in satellite office.
>>> That leaves me with an outsourced solution that needs to work with
>>> FreeBSD's PPP.
>>> Anyone know of anyone that does this sort of thing?  Or an ISP
>>> that has a
>>> service geared towards this (our current one does not).
>> Most of the major telcos will do outsourced dialup.  The
>problem is this:
>[snip of solutions]
>The problem with these is they all require hardware to be placed
>somewhere... and if I was okay with that, I'd just put it in our office
>here so it's closer to me when it fails,

When is that going to happen?  Some of our terminal servers are
ten years old.  And NONE of them, not even the decade old ones,
have EVER crashed.  Sure, we have lost the occasional modem card,
and a few slots in a backplane, but not a single time has any
of them ever stopped responding to remote management access.  And
when a card has died, the server rolls it over with no muss, no fuss,
there has been times the only way I knew it happened was doing
monthly maintainence and seen the red light on the card.  Our
servers are 10 miles away from our office.

>but the problem with
>that is our
>office loses power and it's just not designed for it.

OK, so you put the dialup server at an outsourcer so that remotes
can use it to get data from - where?  Your office that has lost

>> Frankly I think your really being business-stupid by ruling
>out a dialup
>> server in your datacenter.
>Heh.  I completely agree.  I totally understand I'm going about this in
>the most inefficient way possible.  *sigh*  :-(

substitute 'expensive' for 'inefficient'

>> If you program your remotes to call in under a staggered
>pattern rather
>> than all of them at midnight, you can probably go to a ratio
>of 50-to-1
>> or even higher.  If the data packet is small enough you
>probably could
>> do all of them on a couple of POTS phone lines.
>Yep.  We could.
>> All you need to do is pick up a used Portmaster, or Ascend
>Mux or even a
>> Cisco AS2509 and hang external modems on it, setup your
>RADIUS servers,
>> and your up and running.
>Ah... and there's the trick :-)  If I could do that, I would
>just do that
>and put it in corporate's data center :-)

You need to face the fact that one of your businesses core competencies
is providing the infrastructure for these remotes - and dialup is
to this.

It is one thing for a car manufacturer who's core competency is making
cars to outsource it's information technology, as that IT isn't crucial
to it's products.  After all you don't buy a car expecting it to come
equipped with a computer loaded with MS Windows and Office, right?
you might be pretty wary of buying a car that had an engine made by
someone else other than the manufacturer who made the car, don't you

It's quite another for a company that is selling a product that includes
infrastructure as part of it, to outsource that infrastructure.  Perhaps
the company providing the infrastructure might look at your product and
realize that what you do is the easy and simple part - and it is a very
short step to go from providing the infrastructure that is an integral
part of a product, so simply providing that infrastructure and the
as well.

It's like when Chrysler decided to use Mitsubishi engines in it's cars -
it wasn't long before Mitsi asked why do we need Chrysler, and started
selling the entire product themselves and taking sales away from


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