The Metro-Haul 2nd Year Annual Review – A personal perspective from the overall project manager, Andrew Lord
It’s a respectable 10am and my trusty Technical Manager for Metro-Haul (Albert) arrives on my drive, and we duly set off to catch the Eurostar from Ebbsfleet on our journey to Brussels to lead the end of 2nd year project review. The rest of the day, whilst driving, train-ing, dining in Brussels but mainly sitting in a hotel room, is spent preparing slides. The most frequent question in my mind today: “So what did we actually achieve this past year, with all that EU money?”. And the second question, about which I seem to worry a lot (and more than the rest of the team – but I guess that’s my job): “What difference will it make to the world?”.
Good sleep. Nice local breakfast bar. Short walk to the BT Office in central Brussels for the “PRACTICE DAY”. If this sounds extreme, it is literally the opposite. A whole day to practise for an annual review, is essential. When you appreciate that the project has three committed reviewers who have spent a good part of the last few weeks reading every deliverable and all the other documentation from the project, there is no excuse – so we knuckled down and worked very hard for a solid day. We worked our way through the various work packages, checking presentations, harmonising messages, prioritising conclusions… or at least that was the plan. But somehow my troublesome second question “What difference will Metro-Haul make?” was still the main topic of debate as the clock neared lunch time.
I think this is a good thing and I think project reviews are good things because they force the project to dispassionately analyse why we are doing the work and what we have learnt. Most of the time we are buried deep into the technical aspects of the project, and reviews like this make us take a step back and honestly assess the situation – potentially highlighting future directions that will make us even more successful.
Metro-Haul is an extremely successful project, with a vast number of impressive results from physical layer, control plane, end-to-end (or should I say edge-to-edge) demos, and techno-economics. Nevertheless, a review on this scale was well timed: a year seems about right for sufficient work to merit something on this scale. The practice day highlighted again what I knew already: the project is outperforming on all measures. And yet still this nagging, existential doubt about overall purpose.
So our plans were largely complete (apart from Work Package 5 sent off to drink Belgian beer somewhere and complete their slides). After a pleasant meal with my trusty Albert, I spent the final hours of the day sending our completed slide sets to the Project Officer (PO).
Review day started early with breakfast and a metro to Beaulieu where most EU reviews take place; in our case B33 was our home for the day. Everyone arrived including the PO and reviewers, and unlike the previous year, we now have got to know each other better and so friendly exchanges are in order. We even started the review five minutes early. And I was first up, presenting my honest assessment of the project, which I did by taking a step back and looking at the bigger network picture, reviewing the take-off of 5G and FTTP in the access and the enormous multi Tb/s core network capacities.
I tried to paint a stark picture of a ‘world without Metro-Haul’ with scary skull and cross bones emblems, and this hit the right note. Encouraged, I talked in more depth about the need for edge caching, and the inevitable dynamic control requirements, including the transport as well as DC functions. One reviewer question took me back – “Would business and consumer applications be able to use the same edge DC resources – surely they are in physically different locations?” Well, although agility will mean being able to spin up functions where required, there are added questions of sufficient connectivity and impact on latency. Yes – we really have more work to do!
The team worked valiantly through the project, WP by WP, and were a mere 14 minutes late ending the day. The reviewers retired to consider their verdict…. Which was almost entirely first class. They even said they had run out of adjectives to describe our dissemination (in a good way of course!). We will get a detailed report in a week or so, and there will be things to attend to. But overall this project is doing extremely well. I admit a moment of pride in this distributed team of people, who I have known in some cases for many years. They work incredibly hard and they deserve a result like this.
And how did we celebrate? All of those that didn’t need to catch something urgently, stayed back in the meeting room for another hour discussing future project proposals. There is no rest for the wicked.
Finally home, after another drive with trusty Albert – at around 11.30pm. A really purposeful and productive two days. I slept well.