02 Aug

Students at NOGs and some thoughts…

Attending SANOG 34 in Kolkata and today Champika from ICANN mentioned about how they (LKNOG) is trying to promote local participation by keeping the event free for locals. That is great if they can manage that. As he finished, I went to the microphone and suggested that whether or not such NOG (Network Operator Group) events are free for local operators but they must be kept free for students. I was part of INNOG 2 which happened recently and we kept the event free for the students.

Students and NOG is a topic very close to my heart. I was a student when APRICOT 2012 happened in Delhi and the cost of the ticket was too steep for me to pay for it. It was $500 for the workshops and $600 for the conference (reference here). That’s a too-steep price for any student to pay. Fortunately, there was an event on “Internet technologies” by local host and they kept it free for the students. I travelled from Radaur in Yamunanagar, Haryana to Delhi on a cold morning to attend the event. It was decent but the fun part was – now had a card on my neck. The badge did not allow me to go to any of APRICOT sessions but I could hang around in hotel lobby (which is open public space) and meet interesting people including people from network operator like Hurricane Electric (where I happen to work now), large European exchanges, Indian exchange (which was only NIXI back then), anycast DNS operators and more.

Besides APRICOT 2012, I see this all the time where ISPs are looking for network engineers to work on numerous things, colleges/university courses are totally outdated and then there’s a cry about lack of jobs. At the macro-level picture, there is surely a problem of jobs in Indian telecom sector due to fierce tariff war but at the same time, there’s a lack of talent as well which is an irony. Not to single out any NOG but NOGs over time are getting distracted in commercial angles like sponsorship, expensive fancy living, first getting money and then working hard to find a use for that money etc. Ex-Prime Minister of India Shri Atal Bihari once wrote in the poem (in Hindi..) – हम पढ़ाव को समझे मंज़िल, लक्ष्य हुआ आँखों से ओझल, वर्तमान के मोह जाल में आने वाला कल ना भुलाए, आओ फिर से दिया जलाए. (English translation…) – We thought that the middle stage of our journey was a destination and destination disappeared from our eyes. Let’s not forget the future while being shortsighted about the present.

28 Jul

Travel and some thoughts on expenses

Over the last few years, I have been travelling quite a bit as part of my job at Hurricane Electric. One of the discussions which come up regularly is “When did you arrive?” or “Where are you staying?” or “How many connections you had in your flight?” and whenever I answer such questions to my friends, I get a surprising look. I personally never understand the surprise about it but somehow it comes so often that I decided to blog and document my reply here so I can pass the link next time instead of explaining. 🙂

So typically for flights, I take whatever is cheaper and I just go for cheaper with a certain minor exception like avoid using Air India. Even if the flight has one or two connections, I do not go for direct flight unless the difference is less than 2000 INR / $30. This strategy works fine almost all the time. Sometimes flight can be rather quite long like e.g earlier this year I attended NANOG in San Francisco and from there went to Daejeon, South Korea for APRICOT 2019 and this route was via Hong Kong just because it was cheaper that way even though geographically, not the “best path”. A direct flight in such case was more than $200 additional and I just can’t justify that cost.

One argument which often comes for flying direct, expensive is to “save time” and I don’t get it. For super busy people it might make sense who don’t have enough time to fit it meetings in their busy schedule and try best to squeeze time. I have respect for those people with genuine-time concern but that is the case for a very small % of people, at least not for me. Mr Narayan Murthy (founder of Infosys) who has a net worth of $2.4 billion flies in economy class (source here). Plus the extra time one travels is not exactly all “wasted time”. I often just catch up on emails when travelling, catch up on various reading material, catch up some of the amazing talks from various NOGs (which I keep offline) etc.

Next, for hotels – I usually stay in “decent” hotels in the developing the world and hostels/Airbnb/cheap hotels in the developed world. Most of the conferences in our industry often happen in big, fancy hotels where a night stay would be $150-$200 or usually more. Again, one “saves” time by staying in a conference hotel but for 70% of my travel, I am able to get a hotel within 300-400m of walkable distance for 20% – 25% of the price of an expensive hotel.

Plus cheap hotels have their own advantages like:

  1. Less boring stay compared to fancy hotels. In fact, hostels are actually more fun.
  2. Usually would have a Wifi WPA2-PSK password with no irritating captive portal. Wifi just works and no capping!
  3. One can find kitchen area/microwave etc to make ready-to-eat food which becomes important for me as a vegetarian.

In Hong Kong, I mostly stay at the hostel which is quite good. In South Asian countries the culture of the hostel isn’t very well developed and for that reason I avoid them.

So why I do “business travel” on low-cost? I have never been specifically told to do that but I strongly prefer that for three reasons:

Reason 1 – Old discussion with a friend…

When I was spending time at Zoho as an intern in 2010, I got a chance to share the apartment with Rodrigo Vaca who used to be the director of marketing at Zoho back then and was visiting India. Once during the dinner, I asked him on how he’s able to leave Google’s job with all the fun of Google plex for a job at Zoho which was relatively small back then.
He gave a wonderful reply – “There are few things in life which matter and few things which do not matter. They may look cool and attractive but do not matter in the long term”.

Reason 2 – You are too young to become a dinosaur

Another thing which struck me over time was from the movie “Up in the air” where when George Clooney is told by his boss – “Blame the high fuel cost, insurance premiums, blame technology. Watch yourself – “You are too young to become a dinosaur“. I always fear that. I have seen a number of good people turning into dinosaurs over time that I am honestly scared of that path. I want to make sure I add maximum possible value from my work to my employer as well as our community.

Reason 3 – It’s my money

I treat my employer’s money as my own money and do the exact same due diligence when spending it as I would do to my personal expenses. A large part of luxury travel many times comes because of the fact that we treat employer’s money as “company’s money” and don’t care about it. I personally do not follow that.

So that’s all about why travel for a low cost. 🙂

Obvious disclaimer: Purely writing this my personal capacity and going to pass this link next time instead of a long reply!

26 Jun

Less than a week to go before INNOG2!

And it’s less than a week before the INNOG 2 i.e Indian Network Operators Group Conference 2. We (Indians) are little late to start a NOG but it’s finally working out and this is the 2nd event. First one happened last year.

Event website: www.innog.net

Why INNOG is important and why we should care?

Well, having a functional NOG is as important for local community as a working Internet Exchange Point. In absence of either people just start peering outside for an expensive price. There a lot of things which Indian Network Operators need to work on and without knowledge sharing that’s just not going to happen.

Some of short term challenges which we need to work on:

  • IPv6 deployment. As a country, we are doing very well on it but to be fair the credit goes just to Jio and now the incumbents like Airtel, Vodafone-Idea etc catching up. Beyond the mobile telcos, the deployment is almost non-existent. APNIC IPv6 stats for India give an idea about it (here). We can have more fibre, more caching nodes, better long haul transport but in the end what we will do if ISPs just run out of IPv4 and further the capacity of their CGNAT boxes?
  • IXPs beyond top cities: As of now there are multiple IXPs in key cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai but beyond tier 1 cities there’s just no option. We need to transition to a world with IXPs in say Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and more. That would facilitate local interconnection and easy offloading of traffic.
  • Better security on BGP. As I just said during last week at my talk at RootConf : Believe it or not, the internet is connected by very loose strings and things just break so often. Take the case of yesterday’s major route leak effecting Cloudflare, Amazon and many more (more on this here). We need to work on route filtering based on RPKI as well as IRR.
  • Sign our DNS zones. Even though .in ccTLD is signed and many registrars now offer DNSSEC but very few domains actually use it. Unless we can secure the DNS chain, risks of issues due to bgp hijacks or even ASN hijacks would go on. (and much more!)

So what’s in INNOG this time?

It would be 1 day of conference and 3 days of the workshop. 1 day of the conference would include super interesting talks. Some of the notable ones are from Reliance Jio on their IPv6 deployment, Tata Communications on their journey from 64Kbps (the VSNL days!) to 21Tbps, talk on the history of root DNS servers as well as future of DNS, the CDN design of Netflix and more. (Find agenda of the conference here).

In workshops, we will have IPv6 deployment, IXP and MPLS. I am personally involved in the IXP workshop as an instructor. (Workshop agenda available here).

My personal role in INNOG is as a Program Committee Co-Chair, webmaster of the website and instructor in the IXP workshop. Let’s see how it goes and hope to see you there.

Back to work before sun comes back up! 🙂