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NZNOG 2017 - working together for a better internet

Mark Foster, Guest post. 31 January 2017, 7:20 am
NZNOG 2017 - working together for a better internet

The New Zealand Network Operators Group has been holding a conference annually for the last 15 years, and the 2017 edition was held last week at the Trinity Wharf Hotel in Tauranga.

The NZNOG was, like many similar groups, originally established as a mailing list to enable collaboration and coordination between the operators of internet networks across New Zealand, and was the forum through which many of the peering relationships - that is, the links between various ISPs and network operators that today carry the vast majority of domestic internet traffic - were established. The mailing list itself continues to act as a forum for discussing issues of mutual interest, but the annual NZNOG conference is also a big drawcard. It remains one of the few community-led technical conferences in New Zealand, with a reputation for delivering high-grade technical content. Just as valuable. though, is the other kind of networking - the social kind. The network operations community in New Zealand is small, and this is their annual opportunity to establish and build on those all-important inter-personal relationships that help our data move from A to B without drama.

The format of the conference has been fairly consistent for the last several years - a full calendar week is blocked out, usually in late January, and the Monday-Wednesday consists of technical training workshops and tutorials in subject areas such as BGP, DNSSEC, MPLS and VoIP. Industry experts from both New Zealand and offshore, bring an opportunity to learn - and practice in a lab environment - skills which are otherwise often difficult to gain experience in. The Thursday and Friday are run in a conference format, single-stream and with a relaxed, yet informative atmosphere.

This year attendees were treated to a variety of subjects - from a useful primer on the challenges of satellite-based broadband services (and upcoming innovations) from Jon Brewer, to a no-holds-barred review of domestic internet exchange (IX) operators by former New Zealand IX and ISP Engineer Tim Hoffman. This Kiwi expat is now based on the US West Coast and in his role as global networking lead for Twitter, was able to bring an international perspective to a subject which has been notoriously contentious over recent years. And for those playing at home, Spark still don't peer at the IXs. Vodafone are 'partially peered'.

Another interesting presentation - and one that I'm sure will have sparked some interesting considerations from the floor - was from Jay Gattuso from the National Library of New Zealand, discussing their attempts to archive the New Zealand internet as part of preserving our history. Now in their 5th year, Jay discussed some of the challenges associated with this endeavor - an example being attempts to archive content such as the former social networking platform known as Oldfriends.

A few years ago, shortly after the introduction of the TICSA, representatives from the New Zealand Police and the National Cyber Security Centre fronted up to NZNOG to explain the Act, the obligations of the operators and their intentions, to a stone-cold reception (and a grilling from the room) as Operators evaluated the practicalities of being required in law to provide Lawful Intercept to authorised agencies at short notice. Three years on, the TICSA teams from both agencies were able to demonstrate some of the wins achieved through the cooperation of service providers operating under the Act - it's great to see positive results from something that was originally so controversial (and for some, remains that way).

Despite it having been two years since the last conference - the trustees having demurred on a 2016 event in lieu of the APRICOT conference hosted in Auckland - NZNOG was once again sold-out this year and well supported by sponsors and network operators alike. As one of the few purely-technical, vendor-neutral events of its type in New Zealand, I can highly recommend participation in the conference to all of those operating at Layers 1, 2, 3 and 4 - an ASN is useful, but not required. When your job is to make disparate networks talk to each other and enable the Internet to function, the value of the learning and collaboration opportunities presented by NZNOG should not be understated.

A location for NZNOG 2018 has yet to be announced, but with the conference actively seeking variety in their venue choices, chances are there'll be a 'NOG near you in the not too distant future (and it's worth the travel regardless). For further information, or to join the community, check out www.nznog.org.

Mark Foster MIITP is the IT Operations Manager for NIWA, based in Wellington, and has been working in networking and cloud service operations across both the public and private sector since the early 2000's. Opinions expressed here are strictly personal.

Disclosure: Mark was on the Programme Committee for NZNOG 2017.


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