Held hostage by LEC! (Choices in a limited market for provisioning T1 for a private "datacenter")

Dilema:
-----------
We need at least T1 bandwidth / reliability to start out. We're in an area where the telco has exclusive territory, making it cost prohibitive to seek other providers due to the incumbent having inflated prices to compensate for the backhaul. Let us briefly visit the George Carlin skit, about "servicing the account...".

What We Need:
-------------------

Data: T1 minimum, but this will have to be written into a scalable contract so we can upgrade within said contract.
Voice: 3 inbound lines from CO. (Voice / Voice #2 / FAX)


Hostage Negotiation Plans:
---------------------------------

Here is what the Telco / ISP said they can offer us. I have very limited knowledge on this topic, which will soon become painfully clear *grin*. For our initial budget, they offered these two packages:

     A). T1 data line
              -Local Loop
              -NO SLA except to acknowledge that the data rate is burstable "up to" 1.54 mb/s
              -No indication on whether they provide the router or not. I think this might be a "managed" package.
              -$250 Setup / Install
              -$550 / MO.
              -$135 for 3 CO analog for our voice needs ($45 / MO. per line)

Total: $685 / MO. + One-time Setup

     B). T1 Integrated Data / VoiceIP
              -Local Loop
              -AGAIN, NO SLA except to say "we guarantee you can burst to 1.54mb/s"
              -Cisco 1700 series, managed.
              -VoIP phone stations / hardware included (10 mitel phones)
                       *system is configurable with options like auto attendant, Hunt, Group, CallerID, forwarding, etc.
              -Configured for high quality voice, so the compression is at 80k per phone session / instance.
              -$250 Setup / Install
              -$595 / MO.

TOTAL: $595 + One-time setup

Opinion:
----------

We're going to see a big savings on plan B and they said we'd be happy with the VoIP telecom solution. The biggest fear I have is not knowing about the data stability. They said their CO is outfitted with a 20megabit pipe to serve the entire zone. This seems like it would be easily saturated, even though they say it is at %50 during high traffic times. That is the reason cited for not offering ANY SLA except for guaranteeing that we'll burst to 1.544mb/s and then hit our head on that ceiling.

We will be serving a growing number of domain instances that primarily focus on HTTP traffic. Since this is a private "datacenter" (and I use the term loosely), we will be able to expand our pipes to satisfy demand (fiber is already in the ground). As the client expands, we will grow with them.

Our Telecom requirements should not observe any appreciable change in 1-2 years.


It's Time To Choose, Mr. Freeman:
------------------------------------------

Since we have no other recognizable option for bandwidth / broadband providers, we have to make a decision...

Based on the specs for Plan B, it seems the obvious choice. Yes? What are the pro's and con's of a Telecom / Datacom package like this? Keep in mind our biggest objective it to maintain a QoS that favors the data side.

Plan A would be more money per month, but is this the better choice in terms of the *Type* of T1 they would use, for what our datacom needs are?

The sales person seems to know very little about the technology beyond fundamental basics. On the contrary, I know very little, too... So what questions should I ask that haven't been addressed? Are there tricks used by the telco to rope me into a contract that might under / over sell me?

Any feedback from personal experience with this type of situation would be greatly appreciated, and could possibly earn a beer on top of the points. =D

Thanks a bunch!

-Rob

PS- I searched here several times producing some valid hits, but most were 8+ months old. At the risk of redundancy in the forums, I elected to post this in case something major (technically) has changed.









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christsisCommented:
Based on what you're describing the "type" of T1 isn't going to be any different. They are both simply Transit T1's using all 24 channels. The difference with package B is simply that you are utilizing VoIP instead of standard POTS lines.

Where the "type" of T1 would be different is if they did an integrated T1 where they actually peeled off DS0 analog phone lines from the T1 to provide the phone access. We'll go to the basics real quick, a T1 (DS1) uses 24 64k DS0 (standard analog POTS lines) so you could bring in a T1 and take 3 of those DS0's for phone and leave yourself 21 channels for the T1. But since you've taken 192k away from the T1 your max bandwidth on the rest of the T1 would be 1344k.

So... back to the main question. I don't see any difference between the 2 T1's. The only difference is you're adding additional services that will use the T1 data instead of being independant.

One thing to watch is a lot of VoIP stuff can't support fax/modem data if that's going to be one of your requirements for the lines. Also what happens if your T1 goes down? How are you going to call in a trouble ticket? I know I'm doom and glooming this, but I just want to make sure you're aware of some of the things that *could* happen.

Chris
christsisCommented:
Submitted before I touched on one more thing...

They keep saying you can "burst." This often implies a burstable T1 where you're allocated a certain amount of bandwidth and are billed based on 95 percentile rules and if you go over that amount you are charged overages at insane rip-off prices. So make sure you are allowed to nail that T1 up with all the bandwidth you want and no overage charges.

Chris
eCareMDAuthor Commented:
Chris,

Thanks for the reply. Regarding the FAX / MODEM use, he told me that they can sell me an adapter for my stand alone FAX, making it compatible for the VoIP setup.

He also said that they "cap" the bandwidth at 1.544 mb/s and we'd bonk our head at that point not having any higher burstable bandwidth at the peak.
If they only have a 20meg pipe for everyone in that city using that CO, then what implications does this have on:

1. Our end - end latency

2. Ability to grown into a fiber connection, since they are basically provisioned at their level for about 50% / T3 Fractional, correct?

3. This is the most worrysome part of this whole deal, for me: No SLA. Shouldn't I be worried about this? I doubt they'd let me float on a 1-2 month contract in the beginning to evaluate their service. Even if they did, without an SLA, I'm basically stuck (by contract) to endure crappy service should I see degradation of such in the future.

Many thanks-
Rob
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christsisCommented:
That's a rather interesting comment that they're going to "cap" the T1. A T1 itself is physically limited to 1.544 mb/s, are they planning on delivering it in a different manner?

1: Bandwidth does not have any effect on latency. Here's a doc I've sent people to since it was written: http://www.stuartcheshire.org/rants/Latency.html

2: Yes, you will be limited on your ability to grown using their bandwidth. Max is less than 50% of a DS3. Other options would be to just have the LEC provide the local loop or last mile and utilize another provider for additional bandwidth. This can also provide you with redundancy.

3: Agreed, no SLA seems a little nuts coming from a LEC. Again you might see what other options you have just using them to provide last mile or local loop and get the bandwidth elsewhere.

Chris
Fatal_ExceptionSystems EngineerCommented:
The very first concern I had with your initial comment was the word 'burst', which I see Chris addressed down the thread.  This is always a concern for me when I talk to these Telcos, and especially the sales reps, since they have no idea what a burst really is.  In fact, I find it quite amusing when they try to address this question, as the comments describing what a burst is are so varied.  I usually just smile and walk away!  :)  More precisely, you should ask what your CIR (committed information rate) is, and nail that down.  (this is a term usually used for Frame Relay, just as bursting is).  Without an SLA though, you will not be able to hold them to it, and I find it highly unusual that a T1 provider will not provide you with one of these.

What are you using this line for?  Are you connecting remote sites, or just internet access?
eCareMDAuthor Commented:
I asked Qwest if they could do this for me... they said they could but it'd be really expensive because of the backhaul and other "issues". They said i'd have to pay surcharges for a backhaul that was 20 miles... I think I am stuck with these folks.

With regard to latency, I meant if the CO was topped out at 20 gig (or close to it) then would I see latency issues from their local network being saturated. Thanks for the link, I'll head there and read it now...

Rob
eCareMDAuthor Commented:
Fatal Exception:

I am thinking the sales rep is a cookie-cutter sell by my script kinda guy. A few times I tried to lead him outside the scope of his knowledge and didn't make it more than a few steps. The original sales girl I spoke to in Business sales said to me "What's a Tee One?! I think you mean DSL, sir." Sigh.

Anyway, I will be using the T1 for Internet access only. No VPN or Frame Relay, etc.. Thanks for the info on CIR I will ask and see what magical response I get from them. lol. "See eye Are? OH! Shure, we know all about the Circus!".

-Rob

PS- The sales guy mentioned Mux... I assumed that the T1 I am looking at is a MUX, right?
Fatal_ExceptionSystems EngineerCommented:
Ask him what MUX stands for...  :)  They better have an understanding of the OSI model if they want to give a satisfactory answer..  :)    In this form, is a protocol that sits at the Session Layer of the OSI model.

http://www.w3.org/Protocols/MUX/

MUX is a session management protocol separating the underlying transport from the upper level application protocols. It provides a lightweight communication channel to the application layer by multiplexing data streams on top of a reliable stream oriented transport.

It also is sometimes used as an abbreviation for Multiplexing, which basically converges signals together by a Multiplexor.  For example, this is found in DSL connections in the form of a DSLAM...  The DSLAM (located at the CO and NOT at the customer's location) takes multiple customer's data signals and multiplexes them together for transmission through something like an ATM (cell switching technology that can provide up to 2.5 Gbps of bandwidth).  If this is what they are talking about, this is status quo for the industry.  It certainly does not help you in your situation, and a non-issue altogether.  :)

FE
Fatal_ExceptionSystems EngineerCommented:
One more thing, that I am sure that Chris and I would agree on...  Latency has a lot to do with with total infrastructure of the ISPs and it's border connections to other ISP's, and not just the bandwidth it provides on it's backbone.  This could be the routers that they have in place managing the connections...  If they are using low-grade routers with not enough processing power, you will find they alone will induce latency in your connections..

One thing I have recommended to some of my clients is mutliple ISP connections, such as a combination of Cable and DSL.  Then use Multi-Wan routers to do the managing of the connections.  This gives them more bandwidth than a T1, and provides redundancy in the case of a single failure of one of the lines..   and at a greatly reduced price..!   Just a thought..

FE
lrmooreCommented:
I can't believe this company will not provide any SLA on availability. Many great comments by great Experts above, just wanted to drive home a few points...

- With the VoIP package, 10 phones, 80k per phone = 800k reserved bandwidth out of 1544k, that's almost half the available bandwidth. The Quality of Service options that will have to be put into place to guarantee voice quality will certainly impact potential for data latency.

- Is your application latency-sensitive? VoIP is, so if they are offering the VoIP package they should be pretty confident of latency issues within their own network.

- What are the "get out" costs? If you sign up for a package today, and someone else comes up with a better solution two months from now, what will it cost to get out of the contract and move to a better product?

- Good question to ask the telco regarding burst rates. Do you incur any additional charges if you increasingly hit that burst ceiling? Many telcos sell you a basic package with a rate based on specific use - say 256k - which they monitor 24x7 and take an average (sometimes throwing out top and bottom periods) useage. As long as that average stays below the tarrif rate, you incur no additional charges. Once you go over the base rate as an average for a month, your next month starts at the next higher tarriff rate, say for 512k, and you pay this higher rate until your monthly average goes back down below the original 256k rate of the original price quoted. Not sure why they stress the "burstable" part because it is a full T1.

- Depending on how they used the term MUX, they could simply mean that they can bring in multiple T1's into your facility and "MUX" them together to give you a bigger virtual pipe. This is more commonly an INverse MUX (IMUX) that takes multiple T1's and bonds them together for one data connection to your router. You can add 1, 2 or 3 more T1's any time.

- I like FE's suggestion to add any other provider's capability. If you can get DSL or cable Internet to augment your T1, you can at least provide yourself some relief from the hostage takers...

- Another good question posed above to ask the telco --
 You: "How do I call in a trouble ticket if my T1 is down and all my phone lines ride that same T1?"
 Answer: You can still get the analog lines to use in case of emergency..
 You: So, how's that saving me any  money if I pay for the VoiP *and* the analog lines?
 Answer: Well, sir, you can always use your cell phone to call us if the T1 goes down.

- Another good question to ask regarding the VoIP package is how they integrate into the required Enhanced 911 system. If I pick up my desk phone and dial 911, will the emergency responders know exactly where I'm located, or will they send the response crew to your central office while I'm lying on floor having a heart attack and can't even talk after dialing them...
Or is this an additional "feature" that is added to my bill (think Vonage and the lawsuits in Texas and elsewhere)..

Just my humble $0.02 for what it's worth...

Fatal_ExceptionSystems EngineerCommented:
Lr..  you know, you really should teach this stuff..  :)
eCareMDAuthor Commented:
Ahh yes. The great lrmoore. I was wondering if you'd quietly open the door a crack and peek in here.. =)

With regard to the MUX, they talked about bonding the T1's for me, but called it something else. I also asked about M44 multiplexing allowing me to dynamically allocate my channels however I damn well please for my current mood and he looked confused... this was over the phone, mind you... lol.

I think I might try and bargain with them. I'll ask for the VoIP solution, but with the cost slashed for not loaning me any IP phones. Then I can use the service with a nicer phone set or two from eBay, not have the opressive QoS imposed at the CO level, and then look at mux'ing (is this correct terminology?) 2 T1's for double the pipe. After that I will look into T3 or fiber (hopefully).

I tried calling them but since it's saturday, the salesman was either at home, or working his other job at the radio shack kiosk in the university bookstore, lol.

I know this is getting long in the tooth, so I'll bump the points up and hope you will elaborate on the multi-wan dsl / cable idea.

The sales guy actually *suggested* that I could get a few DSL accounts and do this... unfortunately, guess who is making that lunch? Yep. The same hostage takers as above! So they can serve me poison in my breakfast and if I don't die they'll stick some in my baloney & DSL sammy. MMmm...

All joking aside- What are the implications of this setup? I'd love to do it, it it'd work. Hell, how about this:

DSL 1.5MB / 512k @ $55 / Month
Analog line for DSL @ $50 / Month

Times 3 = $315 / Month AND provides the inbound lines I need for my telecom requirements. For uhhmm, say $150 / Month

I can get a dedicated server with barebones minimum purchased bandwidth, no frills like backup, total tech support, etc. which would give me the off site redundancy I need in the event the DSL was having issues. As long as it is on a fast pipe and there was some way to configure failover routing to it, then I would just simply mirror to that box. Do this sound reasonable so far? So that puts us at ~$465 / Month. Saves me more than $100 per month and gives me 4.5MB / 1.5MB aggregated bandwidth. So, if I buy something like a cisco 7200 series router, wouldn't that let me bond the 3 DSL's depending on what NM's were installed?

My Specs currently:
------------------------

Each of our 42u (Cooper B-Line E2) cabinets have the following configuration:

1 x Cisco 2950T-24 Switch
1 x Cisco PIX 525 firewall
5 x Dell PowerEdge 2850, Dual 3.0GHz Xeons, 4 GB PC3200 DDR Ram, 3 x 36GB SCSI 15k, RAID 5 | PERC 4di 256MB Cache.
5 x Dell PowerEdge 2650, Dual 2.4 GHz Xeons, 2 GB PC2100 DDR Ram, 3 x 36GB SCSI 10k, RAID 5 blah blah
1 x Epicenter Centerpoint 2 / 16 port KMM package
1 x 4u APC UPS backup
1 x IPS 1000 Network Storage Array with a 1 Terabyte total capacity (dedicated rack backup solution)

I am waiting to decide on what router to buy, if any, since the telco might loan me their's if I went with their VoIP package.
I thought the technology of DSL wouldn't allow it to be aggregated / bonded for a cumulative bandwidth increase. I bet I am just reading too much into this (like a kid a few weeks before Christmas). You're probably meaning not an increase in total bandwidth (seen as one connection) but more as a solution for load balancing?

Back to hardware: would this also mean having to get 3 DSL routers, or is there a more "commercial" solution for this, like a NM for a cisco router? If I could make this work and be stable (locally), I'd go get a frickin' overhead console panel from a FedEx 747, while the pilots are eating lunch at McDonalds.. hee hee.

How about I shut up now and let you answer... =)

Rob



eCareMDAuthor Commented:
Whoops, forgot the paycheck!
eCareMDAuthor Commented:
NOTE: I meant to say "3 DSL MODEMS" *Not* "3 DSL Routers" above.
Fatal_ExceptionSystems EngineerCommented:
I would like to sit back and let Lr give his advice on this matter.  I take it that you do not have a Cable Provider that services your location?
lrmooreCommented:
>So, if I buy something like a cisco 7200 series router, wouldn't that let me bond the 3 DSL's depending on what NM's were installed?
Well... no... You can't "bond" the lines together on your end if the telco doesn't bond them together on their end.
However, you can load-share/load-balance between the 3 circuits, but routing typically becomes an issue... you have to ask the ISP if you can get a dedicated IP subnet that can be routed through all 3 dsl lines. The idea is that you want to statically assign IP's to your servers (through 1-1 NAT on the PIX FW, of course). Remember that $50 DSL is asymmetric with high download speed, slow upload speed. If your whole idea is to setup server farms that people will be downloading from, you're shooting yourself in the foot. SDSL (Symmetric) is more expensive.

To do this, you need all 3 DSL lines into the same router. The 7200 might be way overkill. You could get away with a 2821 for the DSL's. But if you want to grow into multiple T1's (MLPP vs MUX) and/or DS3, then a 7200 would be a good investment. You can put DSL WIC modules into a 2821 (3 of them right of the bat), but not on a 7200.. we can come up with a solution for you based on what you end up deciding.

Personal opinion here only:
If you're spending *that* much money on hardware, don't scrimp on the circuits. Sounds like you're building a first class operation. Keep the standards high. Go with the T1, add a 2nd T1 later on.
eCareMDAuthor Commented:
Yes, you're right. We don't want to go cheap on the last few decisions to make us "production ready". Something I found intriguing however, during my research last night (from a previous lrmoore post), was the WARP and XTREME offerings from fatpipe. Turns out I'm only 1 hr. away from them in SLC.

Holy crap they're not cheap, but offer a neat solution. Hardware assisted "aggregation" of basically any connection medium. From what I can tell, if I wanted to go that route, I could use the DSL's and perhaps supplement with a satellite backup... Two things about it though- 1. Still cost prohibitive in regards to ROI. & 2. Still not the quality as a T1 entry level circuit.
This solution also doesn't solve the ADSL upstream performance problem though, does it?

Specifically, what we will be doing is providing the "technology solution" for a large retail pharmacy chain. This means hosting (DNS, DB, email, etc.) their websites, backoffice web interfaces for physicians & pharmacists and ecommerce components, as well as using a little of the bandwidth for my own personal interests and development servers (not much though). This of course, will all be under the HIPAA scrutiny, which makes it more cost effective (read: profitable for everyone) to model the private datacenter facility the way we have, versus colocating. If you are familiar with the HIPAA regs then you know how exhaustive & costly they can be. Especially if fined a quarter million dollars per instance of violation (worst case scenario).

We need to have systems scalability and expect to see growth. With that said, and based on what we are doing, do you think a 7200 series would be too much? I want plenty of headroom, but also know that by the time we need the true potential of certain enterprise class hardware, that hardware will probably be old / outdated / beyond it's EOS - EOL.

Summary:
------------

We will probably go with the T1 package, but are just afraid that the no SLA thing might hurt us. That is, unless fatpipe can provision us with a product that'll accomodate our needs. So in an effort to help wrap this discussion up, What is:

1. Your opinion on fatpipe's offerings.

2. Based on your answer to #1, your suggestion for routers.

Thanks guys.
Rob


eCareMDAuthor Commented:
FE: No, I don't think we do have cable in our area, but never checked since it has negative implications with HIPAA, being a "shared" resource at the customer level.
Fatal_ExceptionSystems EngineerCommented:
Of course.  Did not know you needed to be HIPAA compliant.  (In a previous position, I was the HIPAA security officer in charge of data compliance...:)  At our location (Quest Healthcare) we went with a T1 line for our operations, for connecting our sites..

Just a curiosity, where are you located?  Hard to believe that in a major metroplex that there would be only one T1 provider available.  Here in Columbus, OH, we have at least a half dozen that I could choose from, if not more...
lrmooreCommented:
Given this new information, I would suggest a Cisco 2851. It will handle all the way up to T3.
It has many features that you probably don't need right away. The 2651/3725 might be a better fit, but the product line is being replaced by the 2800/3800 series. Even the 3825 would be overkill for what you want, so the 2851 is an extremely good performer for the price, has all the bells and whistles, and will last you well into the future.

I think we can rule out DSL as a viable option due to the business model that will have the majority of the traffic from your site being "upload" which is the severely limited side of the ADSL. You can download service packs relatively quickly, but your client's perception of the performance of your services depend on upload speeds.

RE: Fatpipes... very expensive. I'm just not sure you need that starting out. It's main appeal is that you can do inbound load balancing without BGP. But if you get both T's from the same provider, there's no real compelling reason to use it. Even if you get multiple T1's from multiple sources, just enable BGP and be done with it (there are some costs involved in that as well).
Save the money and invest in something else. $17k goes a long way.

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eCareMDAuthor Commented:
lrmoore:  OK, then T1's with a Cisco 2851 it is. I agree with your fatpipes observation... 17k will be better spent on more T1's perhaps.

FE: This new datacenter facility is in central - eastern Idaho near Idaho falls. The original information on connectivity I got was good; Qwest was able to provide, as well as a slew of others. We learned that the fiber was in the ground at the facility, even though not tied in yet, and decided to make it a done deal. Closed on the property and brought in the contractors.

A little while after closing, we learned from Qwest, that guess what? SURPRISE!! We *can't* provide for you and the only ones who can (at least affordably) are these folks. =(

I pray they are willing to go the extra mile for us. We have got to get *some* kind of SLA from them. I wonder if they realize that the customer they screw over today might be the customer that would have bought OC bandwidth down the road. It just makes me queasy thinking about having to relocate again because of this. O-Well. Life sure isn't boring, is it? =)

Well fellas, I truly appreciate the help. I think a split on points between lrmoore and FE is how this one doles out, this time. Chris, your input was equally appreciated, but these two had answers & advice that addressed the true fabric of our situation.

Best Regards to all-
Rob M.
Fatal_ExceptionSystems EngineerCommented:
Yea, sure looks like you are locked into it now...  Perhaps by the time you need to increase your bandwidth, they will light that fiber up and be able to service your location...

You might also keep an eye on the ASA Appliances that Cisco is now putting out.  Watched a Web Seminar on them last week, and they seem to be the future in LAN border routing.  Am sure that Lr knows a lot more about the specifics, and not sure any models will help you right now, but something to be aware of, since they wrap security into a nice IOS package.

Good luck with your deployment, and the future of your company!  and thanks!

FE
eCareMDAuthor Commented:
I have a feeling that the HIPAA seminar I am attending tomorrow will be touching on some of the newer technology that makes compliance easier... perhaps Cisco will come up (again). I bet my friend a cold beer that we don't get more than 30 minutes into the lecture before we hear "cisco" at least once. Lol.

Take care my friend.

Rob
lrmooreCommented:
Unless your seminar is sponsored by some product vendor, you should never hear any products mentioned. HIPAA is far too policy/procedure oriented. Basically, it boils down to this:
- Conduct a true, complete Risk assessment
- Conduct a thorough Vulnerability Assessment
- Weigh the vulnerabilities that you can't fix against the risks (Gap Analysis)
- Create a policy that accepts certain risks
- Create a security plan based on the specific risks *to your organization*
- Create a change management process and procedures
- Create a security management process and procedures
- Educate all users/employees, etc

- Comply!
Fatal_ExceptionSystems EngineerCommented:
Bet you a case that Cisco will have a rep there somewhere lurking in the crowd!  :)

One observation regarding HIPAA...  I sometimes contract out to Sarcom, and they send me out to quite a few Dr's offices around town.  Not ONE office that I have been in this year has been HIPAA compliant (which, of course, as a contractor, I would not mention to them).  Of course, the thing about HIPAA is that if you are showing that you are trying to move towards being compliant, they will look the other way.  Seems the most important part of HIPAA is a written data security policy, which of course, everyone signs, but seriously doubt whether they read it or not.

I would also be curious to know how the Patriot Act effects the provisions of HIPAA.  Especially with the new provisions that may be agreed to in Congress this week.  hmmm.....  If you get a chance to ask at your seminar, it may be worth the price of admission!  :)

FE
eCareMDAuthor Commented:
Yeah, that would be interesting. I wish this seminar *was* a sponsored one by a manufacturer... I like those, at least you can con the reps into free stuff! I tried to get a Cisco denim jacket kinda thing a few months ago, but lost out due to having been at the coffee / snack table instead... =D

As far as looking the other way, I know it is still pretty relaxed, but the client also knows what a pain in the pocketbook it can be for fines etc., hence my business relationship with them. So if they're paying, I best be one of "The few, The Proud, The HIPAA compliant".

I try and remember to bring up Patriot Act implications and see how long of a dead silent gap there is before a get an answer. ;-)
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