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Notes from The Nog - the Network Operators Group conference

Hamish MacEwan, Guest Post. 07 February 2019, 6:38 am
Notes from The Nog - the Network Operators Group conference


The New Zealand Network Operators Group's annual conference (NZNOG) aims to provide an opportunity for participants in the New Zealand telecommunications sector to exchange technical information and socialise.

Coördination is critical in a network of networks like the Internet. This conference is an opportunity for New Zealand's networking staff and suppliers to 'network' amongst themselves and build that face to face foundation on which trust sometimes depends. In 2019 the two day conference was held following three days of workshops and tutorials in Napier last week under blazing skies and freezing aircon. It was the largest attendance ever with over 180 registered attendees.

The complete schedule is here and video of the sessions and presentations here.

The conference had presentations on operational systems, reporting, administration and automation, though not examples of artificial intelligence or machine learning taking a significant role in systems. Law enforcement, particularly the legal intercept responsibilities of network operators under TICSA, made presentations.

Cellular network standard 5G was mentioned, once in relation to fixed wireless access in mmWave, frequencies 60GHz and above and a vendor view of how networks would shift to accommodate all the glory of 5G. Security, in peering, routing, and the DNS were examined, some not for the first or probably the last time. Software Defined Networking (SDN) is still a topic of growing interest, though it has been operationally deployed in significant enterprise networks and carries a reasonable proportion of the Internet's traffic. SDN separates the "brains" to determine forwarding or blocking data flows, and the "brawn" of fast forwarding allowed flows. For speed freaks there was  "400G - don't get confused with this transceiver generation & IEEE 802.3bs."

Oddly, given the current consultation by Chorus, "Fibre Product Consultation Post-2020" regarding the Layer 1 fibre unbundling they are contractually obliged to provide, there was nothing on the conference programme on this topic though Chorus' Stakeholder Engagement Manager was present, they didn't present.

Credit to the "clicker." Nobody escaped its intermittent refusal to advance the slide, or enthusiastic skipping of slides going forward. It was the running gag of this conference.


Rugby World Cup 2019  

Streaming (for the retail consumer) was covered by Campbell Fraser from Spark Sport) and Daryl Collins of content distribution network Akamai.

Given the critical importance of the RWC to the New Zealand audience, Spark has avoided the traditional telco "go it alone" model of exclusive distribution. They have assembled an experienced set of specialists to deliver the event. Raw video from Tokyo will be trunked back to TVNZ in Auckland for post-processing, then sent to the west coast of the US for encoding. Akamai pick up the stream there and use their content distribution network to return the stream to New Zealand and individual viewers. Authentication of users and management of their viewing is done by a third party using Amazon's AWS facilities.

A closed NDA beta test has been performed for function, not performance under stress. It is acknowledged that in the absence of universal fibre reticulation, delivery to some locations and using some existing technologies will be "challenging."

The service is to be available on web browsers and client apps for Android, , iOS, Google's Chromecast, and in the future, on  a selection of TVs and set top boxes. The strategy is to keep the number of client platforms supported small, but available to the widest number of users.

As for the details everyone wants to know, sadly "Pricing and packages not yet announced."

DNS Flag Day

The venerable and critical Domain Name System (DNS) turns human readable names into values of importance to network users, informally the telephone directory of the Internet.

In the 35 years since its specification was released, the framework of the DNS, that of delegation and local implementation, a hierarchical federation, has comfortably handled the decades of exponential growth in the Internet. Inevitably along the way it has grown some features which don't sit well with some active elements of the more complex network the Internet has grown to be.

To this end, on the 1st of February, the Internet's Y2K happened.

All the major implementations of DNS server software were upgraded to operate without concessions to kruft in the Internet that they had incorporated strategies to work around.

Sebastián Castro of InternetNZ presented on the steps taken to prepare the .nz domain for the change.

As far as I can tell, the Internet hasn't been brought down, even slightly by the changes. We can now look forward to further enhancement of the services from the DNS without concerns that they will be knobbled by clever boxes who don't know about new stuff.

Hamish is a long-standing ICT commentator, advocate for open access and former InternetNZ councillor. He is based in Wellington and can be reached on Twitter here.


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