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time where ISPs are looking for network engineers to work on numerous things, colleges/university courses are totally outdated and then there’s a cry about lack of jobs.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.

11 Aug

Notes from SANOG 26 – Mumbai

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Just finished with SANOG 26 conference and tutorials. It went very nice.

Interestingly this time conference did not start early morning like it did in SANOG 24 at Noida. It was rather late in afternoon. Also, on very good note – there were less Govt. bureaucrats to bore attendees with usual stuff they always talk about but have very little idea. One specific interesting presentation was  Opportunities and Challenges for Broadband Wireless in India by Prof Abhay Karandikar (from IIT Mumbai). In start I felt it to be usual crappy 5G talk but later realized it was much more interesting. I loved the idea “Have 2Mbps everywhere static broadband” and not some absurd number on mobile wireless broadband as we hear in case of 3G/4G. Although 2Mbps now is much slower and I would rather suggest that we target for 10Mbps everywhere (something which can be supported by copper/coax/fiber hybrid) but anyways it was nice refreshing talk.

His thoughts were interesting but mostly impractical since had high dependence on useless project like NOFN. For the next part, we had a nice theme of keeping network simple which everyone kind of liked. Simplicity in Network Design & Deployments by Dany Pinto (from Colt) and Unified Forwarding with Segment Routing by Mohan Nanduri (from Microsoft Azure Cloud WAN team) were part of that. Santanu Dasgupta gave a presentation about Challenges of L2NID based Metro-E Architecture for vCPE/NFV Deployments and kind of confused everyone. 😛

He did a nice job to state that the way we are proceeding on vCPE concept, we are moving with further complexity on the edge CPEs. Number of technical challenges are breaking off the fundamental requirement which was to make things simple.

On conference day 2 presentation from Vivek Nigam on ROA using RPKI was a nice intro to RPKI and the reasons why it’s not just another form of IRR deployment. On important note we (at Hurricane Electric) give a green signed key in front of prefix on our bgp.he.net tool. I will do a detailed blog post about RPKI later in sometime.  Attack Trends and Mitigation (from Matt Jansen) was nice. What always excites me is the status of IXPs across the region (excluding India of course which is messed up). BDIX in Bangladesh, NPIX in Nepal etc are doing really great. Wherever I go, the fact that I am from country with dysfunctional Internet Exchange bites me.

 

 

 

Traffic at BDIX Vs traffic at NIXI

 

BDIX traffic (as taken from here)

BDIX Traffic

 

Comparing this with NIXI traffic (taken from here)

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Except for NIXI Mumbai, all other NIXI’s have pretty low traffic than that of BDIX alone!

Note: NIXI Chennai is somewhat standing in comparison while NIXI Delhi/Noida has very low traffic after they recently shifted to Netmagic Sector 63, Noida facility.

If we exclude random drop of traffic, then also NIXI traffic is somewhere around 35-36Gbps PAN India while we can see that in a community run IXP like BDIX that too in a relatively much smaller country like Bangladesh has a traffic of about 4.5Gbps. NIXI has been so called “supported and promoted” by Govt of India as well as strong Indian telcos but still it’s almost non-existent. Combined with this fact, even none of large Bangladeshi telcos have joined BDIX and it remains with other local competitive ISPs and content players (member list here). And even in absence of Google, Microsoft or Limelight it’s doing amazingly well. India has got around 300,340,854 as compared to 10,637,566 users in Bangladesh (as per wikipedia data). Thus even with 28x more users in India, we have barely 8x times more traffic at well funded NIXI. What a shame! 🙁 

One of very important part of so called “Digital India” push by Govt. of India should be a functional Internet Exchange with good policies. India’s Internet core need some serious fixes.

 

Cell phone towers everywhere…

Another interesting thing I found was the presence of cell phone towers just everywhere. Quite a few of them were using microwave backhaul while lot of them seemed to have local LCO fiber based backhaul.

Tower I saw a railway station…

Cell Tower at Kurla Railway Station, Mumbai

 

This one clearly is on fiber backhaul (notice the cables around and absence of microwave). While most of road side towers appeared to be microwave backhauled.

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Clearly top metros are getting desperate for voice and data connectivity while limited spectrum, lack of competition in broadband and lack of IP telephony is all together killing a possible good market.

 

Some of immediate and important changes we need asap:

  1. Fix of NIXI/peering ecosystem in India. (Can’t stress anymore on that)
  2. Super easy terms for operating network in India including domestic bandwidth selling, use of transport services, and ofcourse International Long Distance circuits (so refered to as “ILD” in India)
  3. Open last mile and middle mile access of BSNL’s infra. Just like they are moving their towers to a subsidiary (news here), they also need to make their fixed line copper infra and long haul domestic fiber for use by telcos so telcos can compete over it. It’s seriously huge and seriously unused infra. Take for instance they have got around 37k exchanges (basic Tier 1/2 facilities with fixed line copper termination) and over 600,000 Kms of fiber optic cables connecting them (as per data from BSNL site here).
  4. Permission for IP telephony so that private VoIP companies can offer DID and call termination in India and this will result in migration of voice traffic over data networks freeing up hell lot of strain on limited 2G/3G spectrum across metros.
  5. More of wifi ofload of calls for native telecom calls. (Remember latest iOS offers wifi calling, none of Indian telcos are using that yet). Could be regulatory reason since haven’t seen any similar VoIP >> PSTN based app/offering from any telco yet). All all major enterprises across big cities have decent office wifi, this can remove strain of that kind of voice traffic from cell phone towers.

 

Competition takes care of it…

This time I travelled on flight booked via ibibo (quite cheap flight), stayed in hotel booked via Oyo rooms, travelled across Mumbai in local train, Uber and OLA. I occasionally ordered food via Foodpanda (and it was good!).

Furthermore ISP at hotel was relatively local Mumbai operator – Syscon Infoway and they had a wired wifi router installed in each room (backhauled over wired cat6 to their core). I was getting 4Mbps symmetric speeds with quite low latency. I can guess it was either fiber to the hotel or a fiber/coax hybrid.


In short this was much better than travelling via crappy airline booking site, staying in traditional Mumbai hotels or roaming across city in usual taxis or using hotel wifi with creepy proxy based authentication and sub 1Mbps speeds.

So without going into fine details of companies I named above, as consumer I very much enjoyed it and it was easier life. So competition just takes care of issues because someone can make money while solving problems. Mobile apps and internet play an important medium here and I would very much like to work in direction of fixing our internet connectivity problems. This reminds me of very nice post by Matt at wirelesscowboys blog – WISPs to AT&T Customers – We Got This.

 

Hoping for a better Internet future for India. Stay connected and keep peering! 🙂