10 Sep

NIXI permits content players!

I am in Chiang Mai, Thailand for APNIC 48 conference. Earlier today attended APIX meeting where many IX members from Asian community gave an update including NIXI i.e National Internet Exchange of India.

As per the update NIXI now allows content players to peer at the exchange. NIXI earlier had a strict requirement of telecom license for anyone to peer but as of now it allows anyone with IP address and AS number to be part of the exchange just like all other exchanges. This is a really good development coming this year after their announcement of the removal of x-y charge. One strange thing remains that their website is still not updated to reflect that which is probably just work in progress. As per representative from NIXI they now openly welcome all content players to peer at NIXI.

What more needs to be done?

Well, a couple more changes are needed.
Here’s what I requested to the representative from NIXI:

  1. Removal of forced multi-lateral peering policy. Forced multilateral is bad idea in modern times. Many large networks (especially the ones dealing with anycast based service) would usually not like to peer at route server.
  2. So far NIXI has discouraged bilateral BGP sessions in the policy. Technically any members can create bilateral sessions but were denied in the policy. That needs to be changed. Bilateral/multilateral peering is a technical decision and should be left to individual networks operators.
  3. NIXI needs to migrate to software-based route servers like bird with auto-config generation to include features like IRR filtering, RPKI filtering, BGP communities support and much more.

Remove forced multilateral, but what about Indian incumbents?

This is an old interesting discussion. Basically due to “forced” multilateral peering policy – everyone is on route servers and that includes incumbents like Tata Communications, Airtel, BSNL and other large networks like Jio and Voda/IDEA as well. The argument there is if multi-lateral peering is not forced, local ISPs won’t be able to peer with these networks. Part of these arguments comes from a mindset which still believes the world’s traffic flows from tier 1 operators to tier 2 and tier 3. A very large part of modern internet traffic flows from content players to eyeball networks (where “eye balls” are). Content players deliver this traffic through a mix of backbone + peering as well as by putting caching nodes inside the ISPs network (like Google’s GGC, Facebook’s FNA, Netflix OCA, Akamai caching node etc). The success of an IX depends on meeting the content players and eyeball players. To connect eyeball players (which are usually spread across the region) one needs circuits i.e dark fibre, DWDM waves, or any sort of transport network. As long as these three things are in place, IX can be a success.

Look at any large IX doing over few hundred Gigabits of traffic or even terabit of traffic and ask does local incumbent telco peers openly at that IX? Does BT openly peers at LINX in London? Do Deutsche Telekom peers openly at DECIX Frankfurt? Does AT&T, Verizon, Comcast peer openly at various Equinix and Coresite exchanges spread across the US? Answer to most of these is no and that is just fine. I would personally hope that these networks do but if they do not it’s not something which blocks the development. In the same way, having Airtel/Tata/Jio/Voda-IDEA at NIXI is great and I would hope they stay but the success of NIXI does not depend on these. As long as transport circuits are available (which they are!) from enough players with competition it would be fine. As of now across India, one can take transport circuit from Airtel, Tata, Voda/IDEA, Powergrid. Railtel, Reliance Communications and more!

Forced multilateral and routing issues…

One recent issue which E2E Networks (a cloud provider based in India) faced was to send traffic to Jio. Suddenly traffic going from E2E to Jio via Tata Comm was going from outside India. As per discussions, routing was tweaked to send traffic out to Jio via Airtel and still, there were issues of routing from outside India. The issue went on for a couple of days and was eventually fixed by speaking to both ends. Issue was there due to ongoing peering issues between Jio – Tata Comm and Jio – Airtel.

Now the funny thing here is that Netmagic (which takes care of routing for E2E) connects to NIXI and Jio also connects to NIXI. During this entire time, both Netmagic (on behalf of E2E) and Jio had enough capacity at NIXI but that could not be utilised because of forced multilateral peering policy. If routes were announced to NIXI route server, that would have probably fixed the Jio issue but would also attract traffic from Airtel/Tata which was not specifically desired due to their known port capacity issues at NIXI.

Ending this post with my quote which I often give in these discussions – “Remember somewhere up the transit path there’s always peering!” 🙂

Disclaimer:

  1. This post is done in my personal capacity and nowhere reflect the views of my employer.
  2. I am on board of the mentioned organisation E2E Networks (more on it here)

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!