I was at NANOG 53 in Philadelphia, PA, this week and while on the flight home, I started thinking about the roots of the Internet, how the network was constructed and the ways in which it has evolved in our daily lives. I spent some time thinking about what has changed with the Internet and what things remains the same today.
Thinking about this immediately post-NANOG yields interesting thoughts with one key theme emerging: one thing that hasn’t changed about the Internet is that it takes a closely-knit group of evangelists and stewards to keep it running.
For outsiders, the North American Network Operators Group (NANOG) is comprised of technology professionals dedicated to keeping the Internet running well throughout North America.
For those who attend NANOG and participate in the NANOG community, we know the deeper roots and goals of the organization – each person present is a true technologist who believes in and trusts the Internet as a concept. These individuals are concerned about the core tenants of the Internet: addressing, routing, peering, and security.
Recall how the Internet works: a worldwide network of loosely connected networks and backbones with connections to each other for the purpose of exchanging traffic. Those networks that have the capability and capacity to do so “exchange” traffic with other networks around the world (peering) and those without said capability buy access to “upstream” networks via these paths (transit).
It is through these relationships that users across various networks (ex. Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T) are able to communicate with each other.
These physical interconnections are driven by relationships in and amongst the NANOG community. Through NANOG, new human relationships are developed and fostered and these activities hopefully lead to further network interconnection — honoring business constraints, of course. When problems arise at a national or global level on the Internet, it is these relationships that can be used to get problems corrected as quickly as possible. These are the folks we all trust with handling the bits of data that cross this network of networks.
As the Internet continues to grow and thrive, let’s all be conscientious that this happens because we all want it to.
In a largely unregulated industry, it is through cooperation of service providers, enterprises and end users to decide on what works and what doesn’t –- from the cables buried in the ground to the protocol used for naming lookups and in our case: the Domain Name System (DNS). Fragility and instability can result when people don’t know who they are connecting to and it’s the stewards of the Internet like the NANOG community that help prevent this from happening.
If you’re interested, NANOG is an organization with open membership to the Internet operations community at large. If you work at an Internet Service Provider, an enterprise or any other firm that significantly relies on the Internet for getting business done, you might consider getting involved in NANOG.
Tom Daly is a co-founder of Dyn, the world leader in Internet Performance Solutions that delivers traffic management, message management, and performance assurance. Follow on Twitter: @TomDalyNH and @Dyn.