Kate Gerry, NetActuate’s Director of Global Network, along with her tiny sidekick Abby, the Data Center Dog, attended the 88th meeting of the North American Network Operators Group (NANOG) in Seattle. This was a special event for Kate as she assumed the role of a volunteer for the Program Committee, Hackathon Sub-Committee, as well as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee.

A Power-Packed Start with a NetBox Hackathon

NANOG 88 kicked off on a Sunday with its traditional Hackathon. This time around, the Hackathon revolved around a theme of interacting with “sources of truth” (SOTs), with the suggested SOT being NetBox. NetBox is an open-source app designed to help manage and document computer networks. 

One presentation that stood out was a NetBox plugin that allows for the documentation of data center floor plans, showing cabinets, floor tiles, and other infrastructure. This plugin was impressively designed and even included an option to scale your layout with a known distance. Such a tool can be highly beneficial for data center managers and network administrators in planning and managing the physical aspects of a data center.

A Trip Down Memory Lane with Ken Bosack

The conference included an inspiring keynote by Ken Bosack, the co-founder of Cisco and current founder of XKL. He took the audience on a journey through the early days of the internet, discussing scaling, router design, protocol design, and some unexpected successes. Bosack mused that had he known how popular certain features would become, he would have engineered the routers to perform even better. This insightful talk served as a reminder of how far the industry has come and the pioneers like Bosack who paved the way.

Engaging Talks and Panels

NANOG 88 was replete with exciting talks ranging from API-driven network automation to RPKI (Resource Public Key Infrastructure). One of the standout sessions was an enlightening panel headed by Louie Lee from Google Fiber, titled “How to Survive at a Large Conference as an Introvert.” This panel was not only relatable for many attendees but also provided valuable insights into navigating the social aspects of large conferences. The panel featured Maurice Dean, Lee Howard, Kathleen Hunter, and Adair Thaxton, who shared their experiences and tips for introverts.

DEI Event at Amazon Spheres

Before the official NANOG social event on Monday, the DEI committee hosted an off-site event at the Amazon Spheres. The Amazon Spheres, with their lush green spaces, provided an amazing setting for the inspiring discussions that took place.

Inside the NANOG Organization

As a NANOG member, Kate had the opportunity to attend the Members Meeting. This meeting provided a look into the workings of the NANOG organization and discussed the financial recovery process post the COVID-19 pandemic, which had previously restricted conferences to remote-only attendance and reduced sponsorship.

BGP, RPKI, and More on Tuesday and Wednesday

On Tuesday, attendees were treated to a tutorial on BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) Techniques for Network Operators by Philip Smith. This provided rare insights into how some network operators design their networks, a topic usually shrouded in secrecy due to trade considerations.

Wednesday brought some humor to the conference with a talk from Matthew Schneider on IP hijacking. Though this talk was closed and not recorded, it was both educational and amusing for those in attendance.

Randy Bush gave an intriguing talk about the RPKI Ecosystem. He focused on the dynamics involved in the propagation of RPKI changes through the internet’s routing infrastructure. RPKI, or Resource Public Key Infrastructure, is a critical security mechanism used to validate the authenticity of routing information on the internet.

In his talk, Bush addressed an interesting question: How long does it take for changes in RPKI, such as adding or modifying Route Origin Authorizations (ROAs), to affect the actual flow of internet traffic? He discussed the intricate process involved in ROA publication, starting from its creation at Certification Authorities to the point where routers across the internet incorporate this information.

Bush emphasized that this process is not instantaneous and is influenced by a variety of factors, including decisions made by network administrators. His talk was particularly enlightening for network operators keen on understanding the real-world implications of RPKI changes on internet routing.

An Excursion to the Communications Museum

In addition to the start of NANOG 88, Kate took an off-site excursion to the Communications Museum on Sunday. The Communications Museum, located in Seattle, is a treasure trove of telephony history, nestled on the top two floors of an actual central office.

This museum showcases of telecommunication equipment and artifacts, dating back to the early days of telephony. It offers a glimpse into the evolution of communication technologies, from vintage rotary phones to modern-day network equipment.

For professionals like Kate, who are actively involved in network operations, visiting the Communications Museum is not just a trip down memory lane, but also an inspiration. It’s a reminder of the technological advancements that have been made in the communications industry and the limitless possibilities that the future holds. Kate’s visit to the museum signifies the importance of understanding the roots and history of communication technologies, as it helps in appreciating the innovations and challenges in the contemporary networking landscape.

Networking Beyond the Talks

Besides the plethora of presentations and panels, NANOG 88 offered ample opportunities for networking. Kate made the most of this, engaging with both vendors and customers of NetActuate. Events like these are not just about gaining knowledge but also about building relationships, for those of you that know her, you know she excels at both!

Wrapping Up

NANOG 88 proved to be an enlightening and engaging experience for all attendees, including Kate and Abby. With a variety of talks, panels, and tutorials covering technical and human aspects of networking, it was an event that catered to a wide spectrum of interests. Moreover, it was an excellent opportunity for professionals to come together to share knowledge, experiences, and build lasting relationships.

For those who couldn’t make it to NANOG 88, keep an eye out for future meetings and consider joining this vibrant community of network professionals. The wealth of knowledge and networking opportunities is something you don’t want to miss.

Note: NANOG, the North American Network Operators Group, is a professional association for Internet engineering and architecture. Its mission is to foster education, collaboration, and innovation among network operators in the pursuit of a robust, secure, and open Internet.