ISP Starter Kit: Network Architecture Matters to Service Providers

Becoming an Internet Service Provider (ISP) is more complicated than slapping together a network and hitting the ON switch.

Stepping back and looking at the entire thing, knowing how each network component will work alongside its peers, and recognizing how each building block functions takes experience. All too often, this perspective isn’t considered until well after the fiber build is complete.

This can be especially true with emerging service providers.

Out of the blue, the working parts stop working. This is the panic moment where it would’ve been nice to have a backup plan. Typically, at this point, CCI Systems’ team is brought in to correct a problem that could have been easily prevented.

CCI’s experts can help connect those loose ends, identify the points of failure, and get the network back up and running. CCI can also connect the dots before failure occurs.

This Starter Kit is made for new, emerging startups who are filling a demand for Internet service providers in underserved U.S. regions and markets.

Being confident you invested in the right solution is the convenience our Starter Kit offers.

Let’s take a deeper look at the kit itself.isp-illustration

What is an ISP Starter Kit?

The ISP Starter Kit is a curated collection of technologies designed to assist operators in getting a network started that can then be scaled upward as the customer base grows. This kit works for any emerging service provider, but every component can be applied a la carte for existing providers.

By prioritizing the technical requirements of a service provider’s build, keeping costs low without compromising the integrity of the network is possible.

What is critical now versus what's critical later can look drastically different. This Starter Kit can help prioritize what you need to get moving on now versus what you need to plan for.

For example, DDoS mitigation is not necessarily something a new ISP needs immediately. Coming up with a low-cost way to protect your network is possible in the interim, and when your network expands, a DDoS mitigation strategy can be implemented to protect your growth.

Disclaimer: An early-stage service provider startup will outgrow the ISP Starter Kit. However, a plan will be put in motion to develop your network strategy out into the future to facilitate customer growth, expansion of territories, and industry change. The kit is designed to scale, expanding on the initial investment.

DDI Solution (DHCP, DNS, and IPAM)

One critical set of components of the Starter Kit involves the DDI infrastructure. The acronym is made up of the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), the Domain Name System (DNS), and IP Address Management (IPAM).

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol

DHCP is necessary when a client comes on a network and requires an IP address. DHCP servers would hand them IPv4 and/or IPv6 addresses to allow a device on one IP network (a home) to communicate with devices on other IP networks (the Internet).

Think of DHCP as the gatekeeper.isp-infrastructure-dns

Domain Name System

DNS is name resolution between the hostname and IP address, like if you want to go to Google.com. DNS takes the domain name typed in by the user (e.g. Google.com) and translates it into an easily identifiable IP address.

Think of the DNS as the translator, the phonebook of the Internet.

IP Address Management

IPAM provides the tracking and management of IP addresses. It is the reference guide for the IP address strategy a service provider has defined. Without an IPAM, it is difficult to maintain efficient utilization of IP addresses, which is crucial.

Think of IPAM as the project manager. Laying out the plan makes implementation and expansion easier and more consistent.

The Art of Network Architecture

Architecture really does matter. Look at the components of a car, as an example.

Depending on how you assemble the drive train, suspension, transmission, motor, and the other parts and pieces affect how the vehicle is going to ride and perform. The type of equipment will also influence performance. So, again, architecture does matter.isp-infrastructure-vehicle-performance

Another consideration is by having the fastest network with unmatched end user performance, your company can be positioned to have both a strategic and competitive advantage over other providers. This Starter Kit gives you that at a scale that is affordable to a startup.

So, how do you get to unmatched end user performance?

When it comes to speed, every component makes a difference, such as DNS. Misconfigured or underpowered DNS infrastructure can result in a sluggish user experience and a decrease in customer satisfaction.

If it takes too long to pull up a search engine, like Google or Bing, each millisecond that elapses, the end user is noticing. DNS is one of many components that affect the overall user experience.

The best way to get started, and to keep up with growth is to map out where you are starting and where you want to be over time.

Use a Roadmap as a Guide

Helping customers understand what's needed to get started, along with a growth strategy charted out over X number of years, allows the service provider to budget for scalable growth.

What happens when…

  • a new neighborhood is added to the network?
  • a core router’s bandwidth is maxed out?
  • an outage occurs for longer than 48-hours?

Identifying the what-ifs and determining how to tackle those problem scenarios will help service providers be proactive and efficient. This analysis will also help determine the budget, help develop a strategy to qualify for a bank loan, or construct a strategy to file for government grants or funding.

A good roadmap will do nothing but further a vision of expansion.

Scale into Your Network’s Future

The Starter Kit gives service providers’ the ability to scale their network with customer growth—well into the tens of thousands. Once you scale out, the availability of core components becomes a bigger focus.

Distributed network infrastructure mitigates the risk of an outage affecting all of your customers. You may be lean and mean, but if a problem occurs, the fallout can be widespread across your network. Your roadmap includes what components to focus on making fault-tolerant to maximize availability for the investment.

You cannot build an efficient network in hindsight. Your company needs to know how many end users it can serve in the beginning, and then, determine how many users it can serve ten years down the road.

What It Is to Be Vendor Agnostic

The ecosystem of the ISP Starter Kit is multi-vendor in nature and constructed this way on purpose.

Utilizing multiple vendors insulates your network and company from any unexpected changes or events, whereas being locked in with one vendor presents more risk. Plus, being adaptable is a big part of building a resilient network.

One solution isn’t always the only solution.

Data Centers are a Key Piece of Network Architecturedata-center-illustration-1x1

At the conception of your network, all the moving parts revolve around the data center infrastructure. At first, it doesn’t have to be a data center in the traditional sense, i.e. a multi-million dollar facility with high-tech cooling systems and uninterruptible power supplies.

In reality, a data center on a small scale could be three highly available servers with a battery backup, or generator backup, to get things off the ground. This would be considered a basic site infrastructure (Tier 1). This data center offers limited, necessary protection, but it doesn’t focus on redundancies where costs begin to increase.

No matter how big or small, the data center runs everything from monitoring to management to response. The data center infrastructure is the literal brain of your network.

It connects every virtual server on your network together, so a focus on quality, physical infrastructure over cheaper options carries a huge weight. The key is starting small and scaling out as necessary.

Remote Access is the Key to Working from Home

Data centers are the backbone to successful remote access for businesses, schools, and government facilities. This fact has never been truer after the sudden shift to a work-from-home (WFH) economy around the world.

With fewer workers onsite, if there's a challenge or problem that needs to be addressed, the user must have the ability to VPN into a secure network from their home, a hotel, a coffee shop, etc.

It’s important to note a healthy and reliable VPN connection can be leveraged against a technical attack to remotely troubleshoot, be it a volumetric DDoS attack or phishing attack with ransomware. If technical assistance is being outsourced, you cannot have faulty remote access.

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That’s not to say remote access is only necessary to combat a technical attack or fend off an outage. In some cases, a secure VPN is simply needed to maintain and monitor the overall network infrastructure remotely.

Is the ISP Starter Kit a Good Fit?

For an emerging service provider, building out an overly complex, fully redundant, self-healing network isn’t always in the cards. Cash flow may have slowed for Q2 and Q3, or maybe gross profits are lagging on a year-over-year basis. But this kit is made to be scalable.

By identifying each building block within CCI’s ISP Starter Kit and applying them to your current network, a cost-effective strategy can be created to increase your overall network availability.

Updates can be made and expanded upon down the road when you’re cash flow positive.

One thing to note is the inherent convenience of a trusted partner who has done all the research under one roof and made it easy to consume. There isn’t a secret sauce, other than many years of cumulative industry experience, where best practices were created, and lessons were learned.

Our experts are CCI Systems can make small changes to network architecture that make a big difference. CCI has the know-how and experience to identify and implement low-cost ways to steadily grow your network’s footprint.

Let’s talk about how building a strong foundation for your network without any missing pieces will provide a healthy environment for your new customers to thrive in as a new ISP.