NOGs and other NOGs, they sit on logs…
Looking at the Internet from the outside, it might almost seem like it runs just on standards bodies, vendors, and providers. But these three groups, as important as they are, really only scratch the surface of the sinews that keep the Internet operating. At the core of every network — the Internet is no exception — there are people getting things done. And where there are people, there are relationships. These people and relationships are formed and cemented through user organizations.
There are two basic kinds of user organizations in the Internet with missions that often overlap: network operator groups and network operations and certifications groups. Both are designed to attract provider network operators, but they serve different purposes. Network operator groups, or NOGs, were originally designed mostly as conference-like events where operators could get together to discuss peering arrangements, get to know one another at a more personal level, and find out who to call in other organizations to resolve problems on the fly — particularly large scale outages and security problems. A few examples might help:
- A provider unintentionally leaks a group of routes into the global Default Free Zone (DFZ). This may require several providers to work together to track down the problem and help either configure filters or work with the provider causing the accidental leak to repair it — providers that might not be directly peered.
- A number of providers are noticing a lot of large traffic flows towards a particular destination, potentially part of a DDoS attack. Resolving this, again, could take the cooperation of multiple providers, potentially not peering in any way, to track the source(s) down and block it (them).
- A new IP block is being brought online, necessitating the modification of filters throughout the DFZ across a number of providers.
These groups, however, have grown into a more general meeting space for providers, providing tutorials, best practices, advice to newcomers, operational information and ideas, and a connection through which equipment and ideas can be compared and considered by a larger group. NOGs are an integral part of the Internet infrastructure — and a great resource for network engineers who want to know what’s going on in the world. Providers tend to build large, complex networks, and they are generally very open about sharing how they’re doing it — from tools to techniques to equipment to processes.
A few of the NOGs I follow, and actually attend whenever I can, include:
Each NOG holds regular meetings, often in conjunction with the meeting of some local naming authority, which will including tutorials, legal updates, lightning talks, tracks, and times set aside for social interaction, meetups, and peering opportunities. Knowing that not everyone can attend the meetings, each operator’s group records the talks given at the meetings and puts them online. These talks are an invaluable resource for network engineers wanting to keep up all areas of technology.
Another type of group is a more specialized version of the NOG, generally serving a single purpose. An example here is OpenIX, a group dedicated to encouraging the growth of internet exchange points (IXPs) in the United States. OpenIX also has regular meetings which include tutorials, technical sessions, legal sessions, and opportunities to meet others in the industry. These sessions will be focused on the single type of network, or the single issue they cover. OpenIX also offers to certify IXPs within the United States after evaluating them using a rigorous set of standards, including things such as power availability, network connectivity, facility accessibility times and mechanisms, and security. These standards make a great resource for engineers building private data centers to think though.