Cunningly camouflaged cable routed around WAN-sized hole in project budget

Leaf and spine networks aren't the only way to make a connection with nature

On Call Welcome once again, dear reader, to On Call, The Register’s weekly reader-contributed tales of tortuous tech support traumas and triumphs.

This week, meet a reader we’ll Regomize as "Leif" who, back in the day, was given quite a challenge: a vendor's European office expanded into an adjacent office building, but the move would take months – and the network in both buildings needed to be connected throughout, and keep working within the buildings they served.

This was not a straightforward job. In the original office was an ageing Token-Ring network that served an AS 400, and in the new one was shiny new Cisco kit.

At this point readers may be wondering why Leif didn't just order a WAN connection and be done with it.

Leif investigated just such a connection. "But as with many projects during this time, the timeline goalposts were not just mobile but motorized, and no definitive costing could be obtained," he told On Call.

So while a WAN was an obvious answer, open questions about money meant it wasn't an option.

Leif and his fellow techies therefore hatched a plan. The buildings were so close together – with trees between the two facilities – surely it would not be hard to just throw an ethernet cable from one to the other?

While this solution was crude, and risky, two factors made it seem feasible: spring was imminent, and green Ethernet cable was available. Leif and his colleagues thought they could string the cable through the trees, and nature would take its course to provide camouflage.

Their rickety fix would therefore do the job and nobody outside IT would ever notice.

"The IT department stayed late one evening to perform some 'system maintenance' and got to work," Leif told On Call. "String and cable were weighted, thrown, taped and pulled and by Monday morning we had a working IBM >Cisco network, with a Token-Ring to Ethernet Bridging switch making it all possible.

"Backs were slapped, congratulations were handed out all round, there may have even been an employee appreciation gift card or two given out," Leif wrote.

The team even gave this rig a name: "Wireline Bridging."

And the plan worked. Long before the leaves fell later in the year, the office move was complete, and the camouflaged cable was coiled and stowed without anyone being the wiser about trees having made the migration possible.

Have you hidden cables to make networks go places they shouldn't? If so, click here to send On Call an email and your story might bloom here on a future Friday. ®

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