Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Launched: East African Network Operators Group - EANOG

There was no noise, no pomp, no beer :-) just me and a few guys discussing what we felt group dynamics would help with. Our roots might not yet be firmly in the ground but the elements are definately cooperating with us.

Some background: I was an idiot in the past. I broke more networks than I fixed (don't assume I don't anymore), I steadilly improved sometimes in different areas at the same time. I read, labbed, listened, watched, failed,passed, tcl'ed,perl'ed,cabled till my eyes teared, my fingers moaned but I carried on. Now I can even classify it as fun.

Computer/Data Networking as a career has been very rewarding and along the way I picked up quite a number of good friends and memories.  Im looking for more. more 'networking', more collaboration, more learning. Won't stop till I get enough !

It is not always easy to get information in this industry in a timely manner. But i know with certainty individuals in the industry know alot more than they let on. I also know that peer led training is more effective than anything your HR can ever manage. Plus wouldn't you wish for more meetups you have control of?

I also know that we are in a growing economy and ensuring any one that calls themselves a networker in Kenya needs to up and modernize their game for the future is really up to us. Some of us are more exposed to others, some are 'sharper' - not me:-), some have access to 'hidden toys'...ahh...life

Thats the bit I want to play in. I want to see proper policies, new protocols or contributions to them, white papers from our market written by us, I want RFC's with my name on them for all the fame and glory that brings (none), I want books I want all a lowly third world networking nerd can have before the bits (apparently my brain is a network)overpower him.
Yep someone needs to watch my Effing back !
 So its great to have the mailing list up at http://orion.my.co.ke/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/eanog. We'll grow as we age. There is a huge need for an online presence and we'll work on that, for now Im just happy the meeting happened....Special thanks to the folks at Ihub and everyone that came and or offered support and advice. Same goes for Riyaz for the last minute push to have this started - Heck we had a guy from NASA - We'll be seeing you around when Im not on the moon:-) thank you!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

East African Network Operators Group - EANOG

For a long time I have wanted to have meetings where the dominant discussions are around networking and networkers in general.

The main objective would be educational, but at the same time would give vendors a chance to talk to engineers about newer technology they are playing with - like openflow, vxlan,nvgre and products on the sidelines.

Engineers would get to talk and share their experiences.

So today we fired the first shot in the dark. An invite to the IHUB (directly opposite uchumi ngong road) on saturday the 19th at 2pm. If we get even 10 people interested, this ball will start rolling.

There will be obvious issues along the way. Top off my head is how much time can I/we (Riyaz and I) commit to this endeavor in the beginning before the group gains traction?

How often do we meet? what do we discuss? (I expect what to discuss wont be an issue). What if we dont get sponsors? do we even need those? can we put together a community lab? community wi-fi? are we doing ok as networkers? how many ccie's are in Kenya? etc etc....see you there....

So in a nutshell we're forming an educational collaborative forum for the coordination and dissemination of technical information related to networking.

We'll leverage alot of what AFNOG is doing with more frequent meetings.

Everything from broadband, data centers, security, mobile networks, IP, openflow,wi-fi and anything under the moon we deem important will be open to discussion.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Third world networkers view on Openstack/Openflow and Cisco

Ever since Cisco announced their support for  openstack and software defined networking; I was happy, happy that they won't be left out and happy that maybe just maybe this information would be digested by a company I am 'more invested in'. I cant wait for instance for the 'promised' support on the nexus.

But cracks are appearing. The more the network gets closer to getting virtualized, I realize how silly it is of me to 'wait' and see instead of maybe getting in there and contributing something. Let me explain:

What this will mean is new books have to be written. First to explain the concept, the technologies and in the future its support. looking at the old ones, updates will probably be written almost daily.

And what happens to companies that invest alot of cash on lets say FCoE only to realize customers are not interested, or realize it wont scale, or wont matter squat in multivendor environments because other vendors have decided to go their way?

The data center is still morphing. We still don't have important standards for lets say 'cloud' 2 'cloud' mobility. Again this have to be done. Heck down here using cloud is still hindered by access (say what you want 3G is not good enough, and broadband penetration is still sucky). So while some big companies benefit from companies like Safaricom shelling out some serious cash for several nexus, and going by how accounting tends to be done, expect it to be out of reach for most people.
source: Juniper Networks

So over and above everything else -and there's quite alot to be done - Im looking at how I can make direct contributions to openstack and a few other areas of interest to me even if its just simply learning and talking about it:

We have huge gaps in Africa. It is very easy for technology to pass us by because:

1: the best discussions and forums and meetups happen in Europe or the in the US. When nice things happen around here, they almost always happen in SA, Kenya or Egypt (not much anymore). but travel within Africa is crazy expensive. A flight to senegal from kenya is costlier than a flight to Berlin for instance. However its harder getting the visa to visit berlin - its a friggin pain.
2: Most companies here consume products/technology and rarely innovate. So you won't for  instance find a Kenyan writing RFC's because - well Im not sure why but personally the fact that I dont really get down to work with new technologies enough to be the 'go to guy' makes me feel like I am better off just waiting - until now:-)
3: Groups like afnog are like nanog focused on training.
4: Money and general social security - I have learnt first hand how difficult it is to focus on 'new' stuff while constantly worrying about how to make basic ends meet.  Im stuck in this weird 'fear' loop at the moment thats driving me nuts. but more on this later and probably elsewhere.
5: Its really really hard to focus on a single area of interest (ok maybe Im speaking for me on this one). After 10+ years in service providers, getting excited in data center technologies was not easy - fun but not straight forward- upon realizing i could pick it up faster than most helped.

So much that Im currently looking at HP's solutions for this area (between trying to get the cisco DC certification) and going Hmmm! They (HP) have a full inhouse stack that should make them very competitive in this market in direct competition to Cisco UCS.

I imagine cisco and Juniper at a classic 'innovators dilemma'. If they dont deal with this, companies like Nicira will have a really nice and easy time. It will take time to get market share but I can see them getting there if the incumbents dont innovate. well they will I suspect outright buy a startup out....we'll see...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Third world networkers view on simplicity

Greetings bloglings!

Simplicity in design is often overlooked. We have done some really impressive networks over the last couple of years. The data center networks have evolved. VPN's are now IAAS and Im pretty sure marketing guys will keep churning buzzwords to confuse (and unlock customer wallets).

RFC 3439 states in part:

'The Simplicity Principle, which was perhaps first articulated by Mike
O'Dell, former Chief Architect at UUNET, states that complexity is
the primary mechanism which impedes efficient scaling, and as a
result is the primary driver of increases in both capital
expenditures (CAPEX) and operational expenditures (OPEX). The
implication for carrier IP networks then, is that to be successful we
must drive our architectures and designs toward the simplest possible

there Ive saved you money.

Every once in a while after a design team is done and implemetation happens. Things start going wrong. a link here, a backdoor over there. statements like Oh I dont understand IS-IS can I use OSPF for this segment? are heard!

recently/actually currently Im on leave for a month and it just so happens that a friend wanted me to help them re-design their network. Its a hospital (large hospital) big budget for gear, sadly not enough for 'people' to run/support the network.

Anyway. thinking about it, I dont see for instance why hospitals in Kenya cant come together like banks and do a common core. It would save them al lots of money. If a service provider like Safaricom were to be bold enough, nothing stops them from selling their core to the same hospitals. It would save everyone money and some serious future support issues (considering they dont want to hire people).

the task of building a large scale packet network is not easy it can be done, but its not as easy as these guys tend to think. ok back to the drawings....

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Third world networkers view on relaxing

its a rare month. I somehow had excess vacation/leave days and managed to take more than half the number in one go. How long - All of Otober andpart of November:-). My plans are simple:

1: Reverse ccie laziness - As I type this, my sitting room is a mess of bike parts freshly imported to give it a fresh feel. I fully intend to add a minimum 500Km within the month on it.So if you see a nerd on a bike at 'kapchorua' please wave him on.
2: Farmken finally has a product, customer development is at advanced stages. Not a single negative feedback so far. But we have issues: packaging for retail consumers needs a rework. A kilo of fruits is around 15-20 fruits (don't get conned). sell by the dozen, use egg trays, wrap them up with a nice clear cling type paper with our logo - this also preserves the fruit? we'll see....
  • The site will feature an online shop from next week - make it easier to cut out the middle men that come to the farm and make it more expensive to buy fruit for retailers.
  • We will work directly with some of the larger 'supermarkets' again in the hopes that our fruits reach the consumer faster and cheaper - need to sort out the packaging issue above. How to do that without charging more is the fun question right now. Im thinking we can swing 170 (Ksh) for 30 fruits which is around 1.5Kg.

3: I was at the IGF and sat in two panels:
  1. 63. SWOT analysis of the impact of Mobile Internet on Internet Governance in Africa
  2. 165. Understanding IPv6 Deployment and Transition  
I had a lot of fun and intend to build up on the two. I also met some incredible people and can probably see a pivot to policy discussions when the tech ta;ks get a bit much.!:-) 

For IPv6, Im working on some new training materials and validating lab output for the said slides. I'll be teaching IPv6 and advanced network related classes. I'll let you know where/when and how that works with my current job - Just FYI, most of the training is internal but hopefully - considering this are free, I'll check to see if we can include outsiders. I think that would be cool.

Im also looking at how we can bring together the network user  group together more often. throw in some comments if you have any idea. I can probably help arrange a meeting venue, maybe some snacks or whatever if we can raise enough quorum to make it worth the time. We can pick on topics to discuss from trends in the local environment, some design issues you have at work, IPv6 whatever....or just catch up. East African Network User Group (EANUG) anyone?

4: Catch up on technology. The data center excites me. So expect stuff around vxlan/nvgre etc etc etc.....

5: I'll relax alot, read - I paid for a full years subscription of Ivan's webinars that I have not really listened to. I expect alot from there....so there..thats my month...oh I'll probably also blog alot....

Friday, September 9, 2011

just too cool

The coolest thing/site I just visited http://liquidr.com/ If only.....

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Third world networkers guide to feeling terrible about a wasted day

its a simple school of thought. - you don't need things, as I don't. You are nothing, as I am. Now don't go preparing the firing squad yet. At least let me explain in two paragraphs.

I spent the whole morning, the most productive time of my day filling and refilling RFP and justification documents to be read by people who won't understand them, who will then explain them to a tender committee that is even more clueless about my technical needs for a very critical tool; which eventually will be sent out; hopefully to clueful vendors.

I felt like walking out right there and then. Out of sight hopefully to never see another word document, or pages, oe excel or numbers.

My future definately won't look like the present. I felt divorced from the fruits of that labor. It was definately not worth it. And since I chose not to walk out or speak up, I am nothing, and so are you...if you've ever felt the same and done nothing !

Monday, September 5, 2011

Third world networkers guide to umm nothing

seriously...nothing, its been busy. One cisco data center exam is throwing me around like a drunk packet. but it's all good fun.....its also coold...too cold to type lengthy posts...that and a couple of things (a few friends ecommerce stuff - i hope they pay me some day:-)) are taking up an already short day.....:-)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Third world networkers view on dealing cards - or dealing with the dealt cards!

My buddy Kevo tried to show me/us how to play poker. He didn't get very far. We were all drunk by the time he started explaining texas hold'em. I hope some day he completes that lesson.

But Im on a different set of cards. Life cards. See In the game thats life I started winning early.Lost some. But a win as seen by me was rarely seen by other people. We all had different cards dealt. I still have a great set of cards - I think. I lost some along the way. Big time.!!

I saw all kinds, related to all manner of people. I did/do feel isolated, sometimes by choice - try the ccie-, a little lonely - maybe, want something better out of life than the cards that had been dealt to me.

We all lose sometimes, I know I do. And so do you. We’re all in it together to try to be a little happier in a world that’s just a little too rough on us. I'd like to be kind against all struggles create art, friends, beauty, happiness.I want to grow things, see change I've created.

It's weird I'm using a farm for life lessons. Weirder still is the amount of things learnt running a farm that are transferable to another startup. In tech this time - that explains the limited posts here.
farmken's crop

Im happy the fruits are all grown up....now on to another phase...get them consumed:-) yeah imagine thats what this was all about...fruits:-)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Third world networkers - how to disable annoying Itunes backup on windows

Locate your iTunesPrefs.xml file.

It’s usually located in C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes or C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes.

make sure that hidden files are visible in the Windows Explorer
Backup your iTunesPrefs.xml file
    Open iTunesPrefs.xml using a capable text-editor (e.g. Notepad++, Ultraedit, but not MS Notepad)
    Search for a section called User Preferences and paste the following snippet into the User Preferences Section after the first :


     Save the file and restart iTunes. Backups should now be disabled. 

To enable backups again delete the XML Snippet from iTunesPrefs.xml file.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Third world networkers view on the data center - again

So yesterday I wore a different hat for a few minutes. I was a scribe. I was requested to just sit in and later advice the business team after a meeting they were having with one of our bigger customers. The requirement was basic, they would like to move their applications to our cloud at some point. Cloud as its commonly known is an interesting service with an even more interesting support model.

The desire for designers to avoid single points of failure for critical applications so that catastrophic errors don't occur runs deep. Such failures lead to huge financial losses and a diminished corporate brand for all parties involved.

I hope their  admins/cio has adviced the business accordingly. Since in this case I was on the provider side, I figured it might help someone if I gave a few tips on what to look out for if coming or going for critical hosting services from one of the cloud providers: Also note I am more interested in storge and networking issues in the data center for now - we just begun). If you buy some virtual machines and run applications well....so some tips follow:

Test disaster recovery. It is probably the most difficult one but ensure that you have a solid disaster recovery plan. So lets assume you want to port/move 10 applications to the cloud:

As a client; make a thorough analysis of each application before even engaging a provider. This analysis should give direction to the service provider on how to port and test the applications in the cloud, if you'll do it, the use it as a guide.

Your plan when executed should test the basic applications in the cloud, the service provider's configuration (what is needed for all ten applications) and also the additional functionality needed for a successful disaster recovery of those applications. Sadly no one in Kenya will do this for you. Well no one that I know of.

Use whatever you get from the tests above to build an SLA. Don't blindly walk into an SLA. And don't walk out without one. Confirm in any way you can that there is at minimum architectural reliability.

Interrogate the person selling the solution, do they look clueful? Ask if you can get independent audits of the cloud infrastructure. Good providers will let you do it. What should be analyzed first? How do you gain confidence that the SLA you come up with covers all the various types of failure by the service provider?  Performance metrics are still needed for each supported application. And please ensure you have before and after porting/migrating statistics to use for comparing whether things are better or worse off.

I'll throw in some sample questions to ask and maybe just maybe someone will benefit from them:

How many vendors are used for all application storage?
Is de-duplication addressed?
How is the SAN switching done?
Is only one SAN switch vendor used for all of the applications?
How many vendors are used for data replication, encryption to encrypt data for all of the applications?
which encryption algorithm is in use, for which tool?
how many PKI vendors to manage certificates?
and lastly where are the damn certificates stored?

You can go deeper (sorry I've been working overtime trying to figure out data centers of late so this will be lengthy)

For the network find out what routers/switch are used within the data center?
are they redundant?
which firewall, IDS/IPS, load balancers, can they steer traffic between redundant data centers?
can you test this?
are the load balancers redundant?
who is/are the ISP's for internet connections, is it on redundant fiber?

As a client you at least need to know something about your apps:
what is the application's best user response time?
response time under load at a certain number of concurrent users, what is the peak number of users expected?
How long does the application need to recover from a failure before it affects your operations and leads to loss in any form? at what point do you lose your  job? get sued?:-)
Is there any component that could affect the application - eg an application tied to a mac-address?
etc etc....

Finally for each application, throw in a grid of information, maybe a row per application into the SLA. So here you probably want to have functionality requirements, performance metrics and financial penalties for the various types of downtime errors per application.

While cloud providers are not obligated to deploy identical architecture as the clients ie same products and software and models and releases as the client's, the provider must meet similar functionality and response times. Areas where this deviation is a risk needs to be documented and the risk of downtime calculated and documented. This also includes the risk of brand loss and potential for law suits.

Some performance data for each application also needs to be collected to complete the SLA. Just so you can say - hey it used to be like this, now its worse off....or better off...

This will be fun......

Monday, August 8, 2011

Third world networkers view on QOS for large capacity networks

see I've had very interesting debates on QOS. Having recently put up a +10G core, I found it hard to understand why QOS was such a big deal. We did do it, we have a very kickass QOS policy. It is even implemented and documented and alot of guys using our network mark packets appropriately.

While 'random surfing' today, turns out there's a weird phenomenon known as instantaneous buffer utilization/congestion.

This instantaneous buffer utilization can lead to a difference in delay times between packets in the same voice stream. This difference - jitter, is the variation between when a packet is expected to arrive and when it actually is received. To compensate for these delay variations between voice packets in a conversation, VoIP endpoints use jitter buffers to turn the delay variations into a constant value so that voice can be played out smoothly.

Hence the primary role of QoS in a network like ours is not to control latency or jitter but to manage packet loss. In 10GE campus networks, it takes only a few milliseconds of congestion to cause instantaneous buffer overruns resulting in packet drops. That single drop is what we take care of with QOS on a 10G core, its why we'll do it on the 40G core...it's why we'll keep doing QOS....I still suck abit at QOS....its just too nuanced for my attention span..

Third world networkers thoughts on happy networkers

So I spent quite a bit of time last weekend with a girl I like - yes I occassionally 'hang out'. Unfortunately Im so me I ended up asking the usual 'does what you do every day bring you joy, satisfaction and happiness'.

I get really scared when answers to that question are structured areound 'things'. A house, a car, a person. Derek Siver writes:

"Most people don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing; they imitate others, go with the flow, and follow paths without making their own.  But only you are responsible for making your perfect world. No matter which goal you choose, there will be lots of people telling you you’re wrong. But it’s your dream; you’re personal dream that you’re responsible for pursuing."

When I sit with people, I listen to what they do, maybe you listen to what I do ; no  not for the 8-5 work. The discussions center around what we do after 'work' in pursuit of fulfillment. A few minutes into seating with me you realize how much I want to get into technical training.

Most of you will throw in ideas around that for me. Those aiming at cunsultancy discuss how we can work that in. So for this particular conversation the issue seemed to be how many Ideas I tend to have that never actualize. Or that I don't own a car (it never made sense to me for a long while), or a mortgage. There was visible annoyance. The answer was 'discussing them doesn't mean I want to pursue them all'. It means for the ones (ideas) I discuss with you, I'm happy if you use some or all of them to better your business or life.

This same thing happens alot when I look at someones configuration or design or code and offer improvements. It makes me happy. Having that conversation with this particular person made me yet again realize how different people are. And how much your way of thinking is shaped by school, media and well their personal fears/values.

I for instance hold very interesting views on education and what makes for a good one, home ownership, religion, politics, relationships (human relations confuse the heck out of me) and pretty much everything else. It is on a very rare day I agree with people on most issues.

The focus for me tends to be me being my best self, defining success and goals !for me, then being around people that challenge me, are better than me. They however do this after 'getting' where I'm headed. I hate arguments that feel 'text book' or main stream something like you should be married with two babies by this age, or you should own a house by now raely go down well with me. The same way you should have visited at least 10 countries by now, mastered a musical instrument, climbed at least one mountain, had a pilgrimage rarely gets understood.

And if you ever have a wonder about my worst nightmare: it is living your joyless of joyful dreams as mine goes unaccomplished.....I prefer failing at my own dreams....it makes me happy - yours suck:-) because they are not mine now are they.....

Friday, August 5, 2011

Third world networkers thoughts on internet governance

So I got an invite to participate in this years IGF.I heard of the IGF last year and going by the amount of heckling, noise and politics that goes with governance especially when Kenyans get in the mix, I was not really interested. After going through previous sessions just to know what I am getting into, I was wrong on that assesment. Completely wrong.

This year it will be held in Kenya, at the UN headquarters Gigiri, this year I might just get a chance to steer debate, a chance to actually make a mark and interact with policy makers from all over the world, a chance to speak again, this is a good year.

Since an IGF is attended by a very diverse group of stakeholders, from different countries, you can expect alot of learning to happen.

So what is internet governance:
According to the Tunis  agenda:  Internet  governance is  “the  development  and
application  by  governments,  the  private  sector  and  civil  society,  in  their  respective
roles,  of  shared  principles,  norms,  rules,  decision-making  procedures,  and
programmes  that shape  the evolution and use of  the  Internet.”
(Paragraph 34, Tunis Agenda).

This year will focus alot on mobile devices and there is an IPv6 agenda. Thats probably where you'll find me making the most noise. I however am lucky in a very random aspect: I work at Safaricom and have access to data and people that analyze it. I see first hand the effect of our product in the market.

Imagine raising more than 120Million shillings for the hunger striken from several Million subscribers selflesly giving (MPESA,shortcodes, tshirts), imagine how much the internet has penetrated society just by use of cheap mobile handsets, imagine mobilizing community/county development using these devices.

At the rate we're going, we as a community can for instance vote using the internet, using our handsets, using sms for what development we want to see, we can then partner with local councils and actually use the same medium to raise money (shortcodes, mpesa etc)....

on IPv6 I have ideas on how this is likely to change things, make it more effective to use the internet, break application barriers that IPv4 imposes on application writers. Since the management of critical Internet resources is at the core of these discussions, IP obviously comes top on the list of things to be discussed. Is electricity a critical internet resource?

The internet operates in a global  space  without  a  formal  constitution  and  established  procedures, changes in the governance arrangements or the introduction of new resources almost always require experiments. Today we have had successful experiments (arpanet), silicon valley. With this in mind each  new  task  in  the  area  of  critical  Internet  resources  turns  out  to  be pioneering work with uncertain outcomes.

On IPv6, I believe the way forward is to just get on with it; all of us together. The teachers should teach it, networks should provide it to users, policy makers should ensure IPv6 is embeded in their decision making. We all need to jump together then deal with the issues as they come along. Thats how the internet grew, thats how we should move it forward.

So why is why is  the  uptake  of  IPv6  is  so  slow  and  what  are  the obstacles  that  prevent  vendors  and  operators  from  offering  IPv6? I work for an operator, I work with vendors. Apart from ignorance, the other obstacle as far as I can tell is fear.I think one of the things I hope to bring in is that:
- IPv6 works, the transition can be painless - I have some experience with this and don't mind working with whoever requires the know how.

Tunis agenda

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Third world networkers guide to a party

well the key to a good party is to ensure one of your closest friends, preferably a ccie is a DJ/musician/in marketing so you get free VIP tickets and the right to go goofy infront of a camera:-) Occassionally we do work....like right now Im working.....zzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Third world networkers guide to storage in the cloud

So i have been spending alot of time trying to get some light through the data center darkness in my head. I'm proud to say I can guide myself through that maze for about 3 meters before the evil dark lords show up. Every time I open the Data center stuff, I feel like I know nothing, there's vmware that I've used for ages but now has far too many fancy facelifts, storage is a pain I'm wishing would go away everytime I open a book on it -they are all different.

I have concerns, some small some huge. That the entire DC network model is 'flat' worries me. I've spent years learning to get as much as possible to layer 3 as possible. All of a sudden I have to deal with all this layer 2 mishmash competing for space in a single data center. I also get the sense that standards bodies especially for storage are way way behind or playing politics or waiting to see what techology and or vendor most customers adopt. needless to say Im quite silly in this area.

Lastly when I look at all the capacity - processing, memory, bandwidth etc going in there (think several cisco VBlocks - add a multiplier of more than 10) you suddenly realize the sales strategy to sell this has to be solid. I also decided tha t electicity costs more than bandwidth and storage combined.

Cloud computing success relies heavily on high-speed bandwidth. Whether streaming movies, backing up your data or running applications from the cloud, the ability to get data quickly from the cloud to the computer , phone or  (Insert fancy gadget name) is a key requirement for rapid adoption. 

Our access is primarily 3G, followed by 'others'. Bandwidth to the home has absolutely not kept up with another key ingredient for cloud storage/backup success: hard drive prices (depending on where you buy the drives), It is still way cheaper for most users to store backups at home. Obviously you can tell I'm thinking about mass adoption for cloud destined backups.
The Ramac weighed over a ton and was delivered via cargo airplanes. 
If bandwidth prices were to drop at the same rate as storage prices, I'd probaby have 800Mbps for less than KSH.10000 today a month. If someone were to then sell me a diskless
 workstation, who knows, I would probably consider it.

The hard drive IBM shipped in 1956:

* Stored 5 megabytes (MB)
* Cost $11,000 per megabyte
* Was 60 inches long x 68 inches high x 29 inches deep
* Weighed about 1 ton

In today’s dollars that would mean:
A $179 16 GB iPod Nano:
* Stores 3,200 times more data
* Would cost: $1,429,176,320
* Requires 8 semi-truck shipping containers to hold the data

A petabyte of storage would:
* Cost: $93,662,499,307,520
* Require a building the size of 10,814 football fields to hold the drives
* Require 472 of the world’s largest data centers to hold the drives

Source: http://blog.backblaze.com/2011/06/21/94-trillion-petabyte/

Sunday, July 17, 2011

third world networkers guide to a mobile workforce

The Monster 696 - 'my dream-mobil'
For a couple of months now I have depended on a neighbor /workmate for my daily commute to work - being without a car and all. One of the advantages/disadvantages is inadvertently work makes it into our 'in car' conversation.

I worked the last project with him, his expertise being in transmission. I learnt a lot from this guy. He ran circles around most of us when it came to DWDM and was highly instrumental in our CRS-1/7609-s DWDM 10G core transmission strategy and its success. Some of our sites have well over 50G(bps) in capacity.

So anyway, the guy goes like - hey after all this work we have done, how come we still can't work from home. Being one not to lie about stuff like that, I outright mentioned that I do at least 30% of my work at home.

While I was indisciplined before, working on the CCIE ensured that I have a comfortable office at home, and a very well set routine. Infact were it not for meetings and factors that I outline next, I can easilly do 90% from home, probably deliver more while at it.

Now my work requires bursts of concentration, just 2 hrs a day is enough to come up with draft technical documents, another 2 hours to read through team submissions if any and the rest of the time is ideally spent critiquing design points with the team or alone. (white boarding and discussing various points is the best part and it ensures we're on the same page). This by the way can and should be offsite. It should also be done often and probably be mandatory for a design team to meet at least once a week to brainstorm ideas.

Good planning includes setting commitments, responsibilities, measurable goals, objective metrics for tracking, and following up on all of this with an actual review. Tracking and reviewing measurable performance factors leads to accountability. With clear guidelines and expectations documented (probably signed off too), and the right technologies, anyone in a technical field especially the creative end of things - programming/design can pretty much work from anywhere.

So in conclusion that conversation had us come up with draft task lists, proper deliverables and ways of dealing with requests as they come to the team for instance someone has to take ownership of all meeting requests, email requests support escalations etc. There might also be need to have a 'weekly mandatory must be in office person'.

Most of this is still an ongoing process and we have also realized how much actually goes un-done even when guys come to 'work'.

In summary -
  1. Set very clear goals and tasks. (run everything like a project no matter how minute).
  2. Measure them with clear deadlines - throw in a a line like, if you miss any deadline, YOU HAVE to WORK from the OFFICE daily for a month.
  3. Set up a team mailing list or portal (preferred), you need a tool to track things.
  4. Ensure someone is responsible for adhoc requests. 
  5. All meeting requests should go to the team not individuals, The team should have a way of ensuring attendance and post meeting sharing. Some meetings should really go unattended, having an evaluation criteria shared with everyone would help ensure you're only invited to meetings relevant to your team.
  6. Let everyone know that 'the team' works together and share your plans.
  7. Set up a collaborative portal or method of remote sharing stuff. We for instance have or are in the process of launching some serious teleworking solutions designed by us, I say we eat our own dog food on this one.
Refine the plan as you move along....either way I hope in the end to have the culture that I must be at my desk slowly change.

In planning, the annoying bit is our processes always have an 'input', that which triggers a design change, it is on a rare day that we get accurate inputs. With that in mind, our/your planning is about the interdependencies,linkages and coordination of the different parts of the network/business such that having a plan makes dealing with the unexpected much easier, not harder.

Good planning reviews results - a stable easy to manage network and assumptions regularly, If you feel like things are too quiet, maybe ask to see customer's every once in a while. Their crappy networks should keep your juices flowing. (please note doing a good job here can get you fired since at some point people start wondering what the heck you do, tell them the networks stability is your KPI:-), tell them they owe you.

Trust me! reacting to the unexpected when there is no planning for each and every command run on the network, documentation and anything that goes hand in hand with a well designed network is harder than doing it right the first time. That and an idiot can reverse all your work in a second - literally (for instance lock all Route reflector configs change control should be much stricter there).

If you succeed to even get 50% time approved to work remotely, please share with me how you went about it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Third world networkers view on the data center CCIE - if it happens

There is also a rumour of a ccie data center that if confirmed will definately get done.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Third world networkers wish for marketing departments

Life is hard, margins are shrinking

Oh well ... I'm seated here having done some kick ass projects. Some were/are fun, others not so much. If we were a factory producing raw material, we have produced it in excess. The capacity is there but hmm where are the damn users.

Let me re-tell this with an analogy of sorts. Most of our parents by the time they could afford to build or buy houses went out and bought huge/built 7 bedroom maisonettes hoping you and your siblings would live there forever.

Unfortunately for them you moved out/on , so did your siblings. Now they have all this idle rooms. A few entrepreneurial types converted the houses into guest houses and are making steady income from the house, others need someone like me- a true mugikuyu to talk to them about how to maybe get a return on that investment.

When you build a network or a data center and for some weird reason the dimensioning data came from somewhere other than actual customer requirements ie you make some assumptions, look at the budget and buy the biggest boxes, you risk having lots of idle capacity.

But what if you have a marketing dept. that looks at this capacity, adds value, packages it and sells it?  I think a really good marketing department should help planning and engineering teams figure out how to deliver product(s) that customers need and want. They should be directly involved in service definitions.

It starts with a deep understanding of what customers need and making sure the planning and engineering is getting continuous customer feedback and interaction data.  They also need an understanding of what we are building, how much it cost, how to maximize revenue off it maybe be by branding or product extensions (branding extension is for instance giving two customers 1Mbps links but throttling one link to 128kbps and selling it cheaper).

Thats the kind of marketing department (in whatever form) I'd like to work with in a technology company. In most such companies, engineers produce raw materials, marketers should take those and sell products. If you are in marketing, head over to engineering and look at the raw materials.

What I know from running a few businesses or seeing them run is in the end it is always about sales. The money. You can bullshit all you want but that is the bottom line.

So if for instance you outsource marketing end to end including product creation, packaging etc without having the expertise to judge or manage the results, you are pretty much screwed, learn the metrics to keep track of, your engineering team knows and can help. Be 'with it'. (My opinion has always been - outsource what you are an expert in unless you want to get conned').

Now what brought on this post????????????

Third world networkers guide to successful an almost succesful service model (cloud)

So there is a huge debate over at skunkworks mailing list home of an elite technical group. Someone raised a storm with some statements about cloud computing.

Now the term cloud has been abused several times. Over and over people keep bringing it up in contexts that I don't feel fit the word. Im not trying to clear that. Not today. In fact this post has nothing to do with cloud. More on that some other day.

I love the entire idea behind cloud. Public cloud from the likes of Amazon have been a huge game changer in the startup arena. I use the AWS for some services.

Private clouds will definately make a huge difference in our lives in Kenya if well priced and positioned otherwise I might very well use a public cloud elsewhere. I doubt a public cloud platform will happen soon here. I also believe cloud is not the main issue at the moment. Awareness is.

Security is of huge concern for me. I am especially scared of handing my data to a service provider that 'exports' my data to some 'cloud' hoping someone over there will keep it safe.I get scared if said person doesn't even ask me before handing the data over.

Another challenge is changing how managers and project managers think about processes.Cloud computing breaks most of the models in use today for a service portfolio. I can already see some confusion in meetings I attend. So for instance if you came from the ITIL Prince2 school of thought, the vertical blocks (cost analysis, business plan, service overview, technical plan, implement,operate) can't/won't scale.

Cloud computing gives you layered portfolios. Visualizing this can be a pain to comprehend for even experienced users. So for that mailing list the question really is how exactly is a novice regular user supposed to comprehend it and take advantage of it. How do you show value?

Start small, start by creating value services, created demand for a service, be open to audits, to discussions, let your technical people talk to the customers (note I said technical not your sales drones).

Personally I'd start from small communities like an estate of lets say 50 houses,Ensure each and every house has access to a 'community network either cable or wifi or whatever, show them how voip between your home and a sentry gate with a few IP camera's and community wifi can secure the 'estate'.Let kids have online multiplayer games, host a local movie database, or music, or photos, install a microphone, record your amateur guitar, stream it to your neighbor....

Have an estate site where users and home owners can access and check on their houses. host community bulletins online, maybe a 'for sale' board online, start engaging locally....and on and on and on....thats the kind of activism I want to be involved in...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Third World Networkers guide to 'culture' - not mine - netflix's

Third World Networkers guide to 'startups'

Everyone In Kenya tends to be involved in one form of business or another. Whether you know it or not, all those 'trials' are startups. Most never make it. Sad.

I have no illusions. A startup is not yet really a business. it's more like checking out the market, getting customers, working towards structures trying to figure out a repeatable business model that when finally found should be able to replicate and keep growing ideally without much of the founders day to day baby sitting.

Since I work for a tech. company and really didnt feel like muddling the 'disclosure' waters, our first startup was a farm:-), because I love being in one. We've done some really crazy experiments, figured out how the local vs export market works for passion fruits, tomatoes and green beans (michiri:-)).

I know what a charcoal cooler is, I know how irrigation works, we have customers. Things look good over there. But how do you start transitioning this to a 'business'. It's two years down the line, the structures and processes are in place and you'll be surprised at how much a farming business is alot like umm a tech business (those lessons are coming in handy at another forum right now).

So anyway, we 'the founders/shareholders' had to come up with roles for each of us, remember this is a farm so one of us had to pretty much 'live there', I did the financials and other tech stuff - like arranging for irrigation, automating it where possible, we had one other partner dealing with our 'partners' and labor. It's worked well. We tried to 'follow a typical business' cycle - heck we even filled a business model canvas - more on this later ( and I'll never do any business again without fully going through the process).
Business model canvas - work with it!
Why this, why now - well, there's alot of hooha on startups and entrepreneurship in Kenya today. It's really awesome. Alot of it is noise and people hoping to make things work. Since there's a really high chance I'll be going 'that' way this time for a tech company, It is interesting to try and co-relate the tech and farm.

This will also form a guide on what I finally settle and decide to do academically! - don't ask....:-)The basics are the same.

They are both businesses, they both call on leadership skills - so the leaders ability to articulate the vision,The right kind of ambition and an ability to achieve the said vision. I'm still putting together a proper story (I like stories and believe if I cant tell a nice clear story about my plans, agenda then my vision and strategy are blurred and there's probably going to be a misunderstanding).

I just love the idea of creating a culture, setting clear objectives, manage expectations - all things I have been learning but can't really exercise where I work .... and Im also scared and worried - the usual....

Oh well...i guess just a filler post today....and not quite a guide now is it:-)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Third World Networkers Guide to End-2-End broadband Service

So lets take a typical user on the Safaricom network. He has a mid range phone, lets say a Nokia E72, or an IDEOS from Huawei.

He clicks on the you his 'buy this' Icon, selects a video somewhere on the internet, pays via MPESA, the processor screams and cycles around calls up a couple of routines, fires up the video player or browser, creates a moving object on his screen, he's happy. Now lets take a look at exactly what goes on in the background from the moment he 'clicks'.

For a network operator to offer really great service, they need to have full end to end control of the network, the enduser device and the content. The End 2 End view of the mobile service in this case the 'video' is best premised from the perspective of the user. His/Her ability to watch their movie in a frictionless manner after paying for it is the goal.

From an implementation perspective, severalservice providers are involved:
  • - The Mobile network operator - lets say Safaricom.
  • - The guy providing video,
  • - The guys pocessing the payment
Does the consumer in most cases know of the multiple 'service providers' involved? nope! most don't, in most cases they shouldn't.

For most of us users, the mobile view we hold is that the operator is responsible for the access and content. Unfortunately the Operators 'span-of-control' is often limited to internal content or external content endorsed by the operator eg content served by Mobile network operators like bernsoft for Safaricom. Other than that there are multiple considerations involved in optimizing E2E service delivery.

While  a network operator will undertake alot of effort to ensure a memorable experience to the end user; maybe by using agreements sometimes commercial and standards, or sometimes co-operation with content providers, it is not always the case. Guys like Google and Facebook make alot of effort to co-operate with network operators. Others like CNN; not so much.

Components to consider if you want to have E2E QOS:
  1. The UE - aka handset - Unless its a certified unmodified device, the operator can't claim control here.
  2. RAN - Radio Access Network: On the one hand, the mobile service provider has full control over the nodes that make up the RAN. We now have QOS and standards defined to take care of this area.  On the other hand, there is another aspect of the RAN over which the mobile service operator has only very limited control: the literal, over‐the‐air portion.
  3. Backhaul : If you own it, you control it.
  4. Core Network: mechanisms can be implemented here that participate in network
    management and optimize the QoS since the operator almost always has control.
  5. Operator Owned content like the safaricom portal content: Content includes both the applications as well as any digital media that are part of the customer’s service subscription. For this there is full control by the mobile operator and it is almost always optimized to as close to the user as possible.
  6. Internet and other external content: Only at the point of Ingress/Egress. So if Facebook suddelny goes offline, don't expect the mobile/network operator to know or even care. Poorly written applications can introduce QoS issues not only for the user of the application,but for other users as well. I've seen and had to mitigate this several times on our network.
  7. Branded content: It sometimes happens that external entities offer branded content. For this the operator has limited control.
Also consider mobility,viruses and general end user demand variations. All this add up to the complexities involved in running and optimizing a network.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Third world networkers views on over built networks driven by the clueless

*Overdone networks are hard to recover cash from, design wisely....

‘overbuild-at-all-cost’, We need more, we'll sell more, this is not enough! are terms I get to hear often. You build a network, someone decides the nodes look too 'small', you buy bigger for more money of course. No business driver at all. No plan on how to sell the capacity nothing!. well nothing that seems to make sense to me.....

I've read alot on economic decline, how a society doing so well slowly goes down, how it slowly atrophies and dies. It's rarely obvious or in your face, its like a cancer creeping up on you. Again so slowly.

Denial!, fight off competition, fight new technologies that you don't understand, get rid of people showing some initiative....die die die...

Lets do AMR (Automated Meter reading) - no, its too complex, oh actually no it's not I say, Hey I said no- says the boss. Oh how about wifi offload? No! it's a bad idea ; no actually It's not, its perfect...haha you're on thin ice. Well guess what, I foresee wi-fi taking over alot of data in the future - not very far off future....we'll see....

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Third world networkers view of the internet, security and war

So i'm on 'fire' today. Just got from a lengthy workshop where some security questions were raised. Back at my desk, I couldn't wipe security off my head. I had to commit something to paper this blog, just so I can read it in the future and reflect on this moment.

So what does the internet have to do with drugs,food,sex,water,a roof over my head? Well to put it simply; I just can't do without it. It's become a basic need. Infact I posit that any country above third world would hyperventilate and die immediately if the 'internet' were to go off. Internet here being relative. I am so sure there would be social unrest in Kenya if facebook, google and twitter were suddenly unreachable.

We'd have mass walkouts. The impact of those outages would be felt more on the Kenyan streets than on wall street. We are so dependent on the internet in everything we do, it's just unthinkable to imagine a life without it. Sort of like asking me what life was like without without a cellphone - I have absolutely no idea.

The wizardly that goes on to make this work would make gandalf wince. There must be another set of wizards working in the heads of people trusting their key data to some of these networks. If an airline for instance hosts their reservation system with a cloud solution provider without an audit, or some very detailed due dilligence, they deserve whats coming to them at some point in the future.

The internet is an asset. Soon we'll be controlling our homes, security, spouses over the 'net'. We use it to control infrastructure, we network our armies with it, our financial institutions, governments; everyone. Now we're willing to throw sensitive data to a 'cloud'. Im telling you this just couldn't be made up.

If Ugandan's encroach,camp and fish at Migingo, everybody yells and accuses the government of laxity for not going to our borders defence. What if a Kenyan hacks into the Ugandan central bank? is that an act of war or just a crime?  Imagine if a tanzanian obfusicated an attack on a kenyan network, a major attack like on KPLC's main power facilities took it down but made it look like a Ugandan? think thats hard? start the thought process over again. Now would that be an act of war? against who?

We have Lulz and Anonymous wrecking havoc on very key facilities/sites world wide. Imagine what would happen if they set their sights on us. RSA was compromised, HID (Do you have any idea how many users/organizations use HID, if you have a key card, just have a look at the back, 90% are from HID) has been exposed, how many Kenyan companies use them without even knowing of these exploits.

Security is hard, rarely userfriendly, annoying and often ignored. This stuff is real, I could make it up but my imagination can't scale. Plus to some extent the internet scares me. I for instance only know how much I'm worth through some electronic data; bits, ones and zeroes, what if my bank lost it? where do they even keep it?, Imagine if we all went to ATM's later today and can't withdraw money, or clear cheques? How would we treat our girlfriends?

It could be anywhere this threat I perceive. Users for example can be total idiots me included. Perimeter security is totally impotent in the face of a failure of endpoint security – if your attacker is indistinguishable from a legitimate user  maybe because they have access or compromised the real user’s computer and can impersonate them digitally), your goose is cooked.

There is no amount of education or training or cajoling that can defeat a well-executed con (e-mail from a trusted coworker containing an Office attachment, drive-by malware hosted on a major website or ad network, etc.).  Your users have to have access to the network, so in this case the key to the gates of heaven, is also the key to the gates of hell. go figure.

What we need  are solid systems operating securely and reliably. Crippling cyber attacks can be directed at economic,transport, military,key infrastructure. Protect them, don't connect them to the internet, if you must, ensure you have a solid plan for security.

Trust me, worry or don't worry - anyone can be taken out....literary

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Third world networkers guide to filling a blog with useless clips:-)

Make sure they make sense:-) I enjoyed the video on motivation......skip to minute 6 to see where it really gets me!...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Third world networkers guide to an idle sunday

Im trying to figure out where to go for lunch. A friend is at Osteria (Karen) and its tempting, but a family event will probably get in the way.

So obviously since my brain refuses to rest, I kept asking whether my profession currently really makes a difference in the world. It's silly really considering what the networks we've build over time have done.

951 was a revolutionary service, people in extremely remote places didn't have to drive for miles and miles looking for a cyber. I design/ed networks that carry more than 50% of all voice traffic in Kenya, more than 70% of data.

My grandmother uses these things, I know a farm planning on using sms to trigger irrigation systems (Automation is too much and its hard to automate the rain), I have cycled to Mombasa for charity...so yes I feel pretty good about myself today and its a beautiful day...too beautiful to keep reading up on datacenter 3.0.....Im heading out...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

third world networker's guide to Defining Nightmares

Every single day I get up, go work come home, routinely in the past, I would take my bike out for a spin in the dark in the morning, on the weekends after long work weeks,and ccie study Jack and I would fortnightly head out for a hike and just marvel at nature.

I had huge 'fears' of losing my job. Didn't know why, still don't. Casual conversations with friends and relatives about how much I really hate/hated feeling that way always ended up with 'so what you gonna do?'. They still do. trying to tell them to stop projecting their fears on me does'nt work.

I have been jumping off cliffs, bungees, riding downhill (yeah if you look very very very closely on the attached video you get to see me)..and generally being very mavericky with my life a lot. had fun at it too.

trusty old bike
Well of late, I find myself dragging my feet to work. Probably need a lengthy holiday to recharge.

this year probably with wildfitness or if all goes well a destination far far away.

I'm not bored - i think, still love it, but arghhh....the farm is much more fun now, great stuff going on there, and I haven't gone for a single biking event this year. I have to wonder why I'm even working right? I mean thats the normal rational thing to ask yes? what is it all for?

oh well the pancakes today were awesome, and I'm taking the old bike out damn it....and tomorrow if weather permits, I hit longonot for a hike....so no not having a 'job' is not a major nightmare, not enjoying it is, not doing and enjoying things you used to sucks, feeling lethalgic, almost sick is a nightmare....go recharge....

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Third World Networkers musings on the future for IPv6

I like it love it when the chickens come home to roost.

I was looking over ripe (for those who don't know, RIPE used to be the African RIR before AFRINIC was formed, my first LIR training was with RIPE so I tend and like to follow their proceedings). Anyway so I was going through RIPE 62's IPv6 sessions (that is all they discussed it seems) and realized how some 'operators' might get a very interesting edge over other players just by showing a readiness and willingness to work with key stakeholders in their respective markets.

Remember if you have done nothing up to now about IPv6, you stand to lose out quite a bit. you miss out on getting cheap experience for your engineers, you miss out on working out the kinks in pricing, application modelling and a host of other issues. In my case I imagine DPI and billing will be a pain in a tender area. You will lose customers.

Also most of what is being done now is pure experimentation, which is fine. The entire internet model is an experiment, try this, do that, tweak here; it's constantly improving and morphing. I never expected, ever to deploy a site with 30Gbps of bandwidth in Kenya, ever. But it's been done.

The present value of IPv6 and associated technologies is very very discounted. It will cost you more in the future to train, to migrate, to work with IPv6. You'll also probably lose alot of staff if you don't give them an opportunity to participate, an outlet for the enthusiasm we feel when dealing with new technologies and toys. I we love toys.

So it was no wonder that transition mechanisms are at the top of the list of issues for content providers too. Will tunnels work? I doubt it, not for everything anyway. what about NAT? we all know what that does. Content providers obviously want end to end IPv6 (native IPv6). This clears a path for their content from the user to the content. It's perfect for them.

It was rightly pointed out to me at Afnog that waiting for user demand is really not a wise idea. Users don't care much how they get their content, why would they start now? because you have a new buzz word? for bragging rights? 'heyy duuuude, check out my IPv6!'...Ha!

Anyway, to break this loop; waiting for user demand by carriers/ISP's and waiting for ISP's/Telcos to deploy IPv6 by content providers before deploying IPv6 on their systems, we all need to jump together. We learn together. Content providers need to dual stack or at least start running audits. ISP's pretty much know they need to have IPv6 on their core network, they should be peering with IPv6. Most have done that. Most are working on the access side now.

If you are a content provider, you're probably right in fearing that ISP's and other carriers will hide their traffic, their users, your customers behind NAT's (NAT can break your billing for instance) and other content gateways when IPv4 is finally trully completely depleted. They'll create walls around their users.

It's a risky situation and ISP's can exploit it; If I introduce NAT and hide the users, you have to come to me and negotiate for some sort of 'cdr'/customer data to effectively bill, also forget any lawful intercepts or proper logging - hence the need for regulator intervention if IPv6 uptake is slow by all parties. I don't think this is a major risk in Kenya. We don't have that many content providers or neutral data centers - sad but true.

There is no excuse for an ISP to not have basic IPv6 set up. It on the same note is irresponsible for a content provider or datacenter owner to not start playing around with content provision over IPv6, and requesting for IPv6 connectivity upstream. Datacenter and other content owners need neutral networks to sell their services. To help things along, it is imperative that content owners turn on dual-stack at the content level.

Don't get me wrong, there will be issues. But isn't it better to deal with them with everyone? Isn't it better to train your noc now? you want a situation where if a customer calls in the future with IPv6 related issues, it's handled just like any other call because your staff are so 'with it'.

Note customers get connectivity from an ISP or ('insert favorite name for a guy offering connectivity services here'). Customers know them as 'internet providers'. They call them if they have a problem. No customer I know in Kenya calls facebook when that page is unreachable. Most call Safaricom, or whoever connects them. Nothing will necessarily change their thinking in a post IPv4 world.

Which means if content providers don't do their transition properly the service providers helpdesk gets congested with calls from angry consumers. That creates unnecessary tension. I hope you now begin to see why this effort has to be end to end.

It is a good time as disruptive times tend to be to try and exploit the opportunity and improve your relative position and control of the market. Kenya doesn't have many content providers, I hate that fact, looking at those statistics can be very disheartening and I hope in the future to get involved in content generation, or just fund or help build platforms.

There is a huge untapped potential. However if we move fast and show the world and ourselves that we can offer native IPv6 to a popular content provider and you are a network with many many users with native IPv6, then you stand a higher chance of nailing that business.

Look in the end customers want content. ISP's are unfortunately just pipes for now unless you are very creative. You can work now and partner with content providers or wait for your demise.

It's a good time for re-invention. As a guy that designs networks and sometimes applications to get by, and have done it for a while now. I know this will probably be one of the most interesting periods for me. I also know this transition can't be wished away. Soon there will be real market forces driving it.

Either way we have far bigger issues to deal with. Lets just get this IPv6 done. Its easy, its fun, life can get much much more complicated than a few extra bits.....

I am going back to more deployment like technical implementation scenarios and writing, the focus is on processes and documentation, IPv6, data center technologies and multicast.... so if you'd like something tested out - let me know.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Third World Networkers guide to a re-organization

If you know where I work then you know the entire company underwent massive reorganization. It just happened that at around the same time I was busy 'gaming' Cisco into giving me a CCIE. So sleepless nights. Being re-organized was not helping. I needed the CCIE as a credible 'credibility indicator'. Just in case shit hit the fan while facing me. Unlikely but not far fetched.

I imagined being in a box, one of many, with our new CEO moving them around not even knowing I'm inside. Would he hear me if I let out a scream, I wondered? Haha don't be silly Gitau, you've never even bumped into him on the corridor; Your sister that doesn't work here met him before you. Scream away! sigh...

What if he got tired before the game ended. I like his vision and plans.Our customers could use that kind of thinking. I didn't believe in the team entrusted with the change at the time. It can't be change if you don't change the people right? They had a lot to prove to me. My jury is still sitting.

Would whoever he'd trust with the final 'execution' move around the boxes in a manner that lets me work better. I am very trusting, but I doubted it. So first things first:

I updated my resume, and passed the CCIE. In this day and age, it is irresponsible to not take measures that ensure you are on top of things. I had two job offers within a week. I was on solid ground. I had a new bounce. Life was good.

I promised to give myself lots of time to work through things I decided on two whole months of 'no moves' just to take some time to think and plan. I plan a lot. Passing ended a two year journey so two months was nothing.

I also started touching base with old friends in the industry. I have good friends, they believe in me. I got a slot to speak at AFNOG (Africa Network Operators Group), and an offer to speak at ISOC (Internet Society), they would have paid for my trip - I did AFNOG, never did ISOC, i should have done both and saved some money. Stupid me!. I learnt something, moving on.

I also got asked by one other friend through another friend if I would teach at their school. I agreed to do one class,very short notice, lots of pressure, just my kind of fun and just to get some classroom experience. First class - IP/ethernet backhaul, it went very well. They even paid me. Awesome.

So now i knew I could at least teach over and above my current skills. I spoke to about 200 technical people about a technology I'm passionate about in Dar on the 7th June.

I intend to do alot of these presentation/teaching gigs. It is a very engaging process and I have learnt during this process very different things from those in my technical background. I imagine each speaking engagement will teach me something new, each set of trainees will bring new experience and I will take all the criticism and advice in my stride, I can see myself improving with each new opportunity.

I recognized there were some lessons here that other third world networkers' could use.

First of all each reorg brings forth a disequilibrium, complexities and confusion. For a while it was hard to get things done. I actually took two weeks off because I couldn't stand wasting my time waiting, and i could use it for other things, thats all it seemed we were doing; waiting for the process to end. Imagine if someone came to your house and rearranged your socks, every day for two weeks. Your morning routine would definitely change.

If you are in charge of change, please do it swiftly, communicate clearly.

Secondly realize there will be new characters to deal with. Probably a new boss in your work life. Brush up on interpersonal skills in case you had forgotten.

Thirdly reorganizations create great opportunities to grow. If you design networks or software, then you are already accustomed to change. Take it in your stride. Keep walking.

Its also a great time to make changes you always wanted. For instance a lot of projects tended to be driven by time. 'do this fast, we need it now', it promoted a lot of shoddy work in the past. Careful design, tests and all the other best practices be damned. change that now. I was very impressed with the opportunity to steer processes and ensure best practices get followed.

If you can't and it still pisses you of, quit, or start making plans to quit gracefully before your job kills you.

4'thly please please note it's not your fathers company. On the same note you don't work as a charity, expect to be paid for your work.

5'thly Optimize your life for change. Find your peak efficiency point, operate at it, deliver. I assume you are getting paid to work.

Save some cash. Try and clear all your bad debts, marry wisely. If your wife or husband or girlfriend or boyfriend is the sort that walks the moment you hit bad times. Walk on, seriously, sneak away tonight, come to my place:-).

other notes:
Then you  have to figure out how to be successful in this new structure. The executive goal in our case was laid out very clearly, very publicly. All I needed was to know where I fit in so I could get on with it.

The take home lesson here is; even if you don't 'feel' the structure right now, unless you become part of the process, you might end up becoming just that guy on the sidelines. In our case I actually got a chance to change a number of things I felt had not been working out for me. I still can't stand others. But such is life.

There will be cracks, steer your issues away from them. Escalate fast, there's a high chance everyone is going through the same thing. Don't even bother talking or reasoning with negative guys. Change is hard enough as it is. Be politely blunt - to a fault. Trust me every one is afraid during a reorg including your boss, his boss, everyone, just do your thing.

The critical things that lead to success don't change. Teamwork and collaboration are still necessary. Pursue them. Keep the teams small, hope it stays that way for a bit longer together this time. Team culture is important. don't be a 'caffeine grasping egomaniac I can do it all hero'. that sort of praise doesn't scale. I've had very successful projects working, learning and mentoring teams. It helps.

lastly: follow through on objectives. Clarify your exact role as an individual and for the team. If you hold a leadership position, work with the team on this. I can't emphasize how important this is. To me. It really is time to quit if you can't tell what your role and objectives are. It might just be your manager acting up too. Dump him/her. There's a lot of life going on out there.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Happy world IPv6 day

The desired effect after today for me is:

- Wider recognition that IPv4 whether we like it or not will not work for the next 'internet'. Can't scale, won't scale for the future.
- Massive large scale complaints from customers to jolt executives awake on IPv6. this is unlikely if you the network guy has done his job well. (see how you are your own bottleneck for progress)?
- Mobile network Operators need to realize that IPv6 affects them more than most. IPv6 will be heavilly used on mobile devices. (home automation devices, sensors, handsets, POS,atm's etc etc).
- if you are a cio/cto/ceo don't assume your guys have not been doing anything about IPv6. Just ask nicely. we hate it when you sound clueless. we're supposed to look up to you. Just ask something like; 'hey gitau, how far are along are we with ipv6? can we offer something to customers? maybe invite a few for trials?' can we put something together for the media? yes and yes and yes...probably not the answer you expected. Remember you probably heard about it the other day, gitau has been quietly working on this for +5 years.
- AFRINIC while holding a lot of addressing resources for us can't guarantee business continuity for your network should some killer apps be hosted and implemented only for IPv6.
- Laziness will get us nowhere. Ignorance is not an excuse either.
- IPv6 is a cliff we third world networkers should jump with the rest of the world. If we get left behind, we'll miss out on experience and the opportunity to be 'with it' as its happening. jump with the rest of the world.
- At lunch yesterday, someone suggested we (AFRINIC) just goes ahead and sells/auctions off all IPv4 addresses remaining to stop the illusion that we can survive with IPv4.

- IPv6 education needs to be taken seriously.
- Organizations can expect some IPv6 brain drain.
- Widespread collaboration has to be enforced. We need in organization, in country, in region forums discussing this issues. Policy has to embed futuristic thinking.
- Corporates need to embrace and promote IPv6. Sponsored events should be encouraged.
- Don't accept any design without IPv6 considerations. don't.
- Don't host with guys without IPv6. Even 'clouds' should be ipv6 aware.
- Install and run an IPv6 DMZ. start with DNS.
- Apply for your IPv6 addresses today. Make sure its provider independent. If you'd like to know how and why you need this, leave a comment. I can cover how to go about getting IPv6 space.
- Start peering with IPv6. Ask your service provider for IPv6. It should be free. I really hope no one charges to connect, peer or give customers IPv6 addresses. I know most have no policy on this. Just demand for it the same way you do for other services.
- Ensure your infrastructure is v6 ready. do an audit. maybe I can help. throw me a comment.
- Talk about IPv6 in your next meeting. just add it as an FYI.
- call safaricom, they have some really clueful guys when it comes to these things and i'm not just saying it.

In the end the fact is there will be change. plan for it and deal with it. Otherwise IPv6 will be the gift that keeps giving to consultants from your pocket.

Third world networkers inflight diary - Nairobi --> Dar

So I'm aboard a  Fly540 to Dar for a techies meet. They had the best fly back/return trip time for me. I also discover they are cheap. My trip budget is about 500USD, life will be extremely difficult if i go over that budget.

Its a boring, 1 hr flight, clouds fly by beneath me, that calms me; there's a lady in orange that keeps walking around. She seems to be offering on board maid service. She's friendly, I'm in a sour mood. I decide to not ruin her day. I fake a smile.

Directly opposite me is a couple, i think the guy is nigerian and lady's from Dar. I know because he sounds a bit like a nigerian colleague at work. The lady has that melody like swahili. It just rolls off her tongue. 'ukifika dar jameni usije enda ulevini!'. Boy are they loud. Do nigerians know swahili?

There's a mother holding a baby, a she? a he? who knows, but it's hungry. Mother's probably not comfortable breast feeding at high altitude. He/She cries.

I power up my notebook and listen to a guy called Vast begging a girl not to take her love away. I know abit about lost love, so I feel for the guy. I should learn to play this on the guitar, for when i start dating.

I count about 27 people on this flight. It's a canadair cl-600-2b19 regional jet. They apparently have 3 of these twin engines with a 50 passenger capacity. I hope they are not making a loss on the trip. I make a point to invest in an airline in the future. Farms and clinics are great. short haul cheap airlines might just have a future.

They; fly540 were the cheapest flight I could find. I take a pause, this trip was self sponsored due to some very last minute changes. I am versatile. I hate feeling disorganized. I am organized, i tend to plan things alot. I come from the just fucking do it fast and don't be stupid school of thought. It's my school so agree to disagree and move on. I plan, i collect facts, i put them together. Its my thing. I love it. I'll be happy sharing something with AFNOG. I owe some guys there alot.

Almost everyone on this third world flight has a laptop or Ipad. I have a smallish notebook. It's an Acer got from Indonesia. The perfect companion. I hate Ipads. For no reason. I might love them in the morning. I stare at the baby. He starts crying. I must have sent him a bolt of bits, or an over stuffed IPv6 packet. Maybe at his age he can only digest IPv4. Who knows.

Its a weird flight this one, before I got on, There's a guy called Noah that just asked for my Bio. He must be on the program committee, at afnog, I'll find out soon enough. He felt like a likeable fellow. I saw the request at the airport just before boarding. He wants my title, what I do, where I do it, maybe why I do it? etc.

I have held many titles in the last two years. principal data engineer, technical lead, network architect; last one I saw was 'network architect', I suspect because of all my design work, a functional network and superior intellect, the official letter said manager - network architecture and design. In case you're wondering, I like the network architect title. Depending on where I am, and who I'm talking to , I drop the 'manager'. Both work for me. It doesn't matter. My skills, leadership or otherwise speak for me.

It's a sweet role, the toys are lovely, the fruit of lots of labor very visible. I'm just not comfortable financially to be well focused. That and a CCIE means you get the occasional odd offer. Motivation is something personal to all of us and I clearly have different things that get me all fired up and committed.It would be nice to sit in a panel and discuss 'what drives us'.

Afnog has come a long way. 11years! I'll just explain what I do to the guys, I sent the network architect line for bio info. I hope we fill a hall. Should kill a good 5 minutes on the podium. I think of a joke to accompany it. I smile at my own funniness. Hilarious. Haahaha! I make a point to dilute the joke. Don't kill them before you deliver your message. We need to critically think about IPv6, our collective role in it's success, we need to finally stand up and be counted. I send a hex bolt towards the baby. No tears. hmm.... maybe he's ready for IPv6 after all.

Fly540 have an inflight magazine. Its full of Ads. Maybe they should write stories about their passengers. Heck they should make passengers submit stories while on the flight. Maybe I should write for them. Oh shoot they should write about me...in flight diaries?

Vast is done crooning. Next up, Anjunabeats in Ibiza 2010, right after Keane.  I plan on going to Ibiza later for this years holiday. Anjunabeats sort of wins the musical contest. Everybody's changing by Keane does inspire me a bit. I play it again, I compose a resignation letter and another one re-applying for the same job, then wonder if they would hire me back. I wonder if I would hire me back. Ahh the joys of being idle. I trash the letter. Chicken!

The clouds look beautiful,they fire up my neurons. Spatial temporal reasoning at its best. It's just abstract. Like suspended cotton they look, or floating rice, or coagulated milk. I stare at the patterns, marvel at nature. For some weird reason I think about peeing pouring hot coffee through them, and wonder if it's hot and misty when it lands. If I ever have an alternate me or an avatar he'll be weird, people will kick him vomit on him just for kicks....I slap myself back to reality...

My reality is interesting: IPv6,NGN,evolved packet core, mpls, pseudowire, otv,inter provider QOS, NNI,PPI, cloud ahh cloud, I look down the window again, I hear people store data in the clouds nowadays.

I'm disappointed, it's nothing but white down there, I thought bits were black? I must be looking at the wrong cloud, or all data is stored in the US clouds? maybe it's a cloud quality issue? maybe third-world clouds don't work...maybe its my pee coffee? who knows...I just don't see any data, I look out again and realize it might be there, just encapsulated in cloud...bummer!

I arrest my imagination. Too much. Ding! the fasten seat belts light up, time to stop typing....I blame the altitude for anything you find weird today....I wonder who reads this stuff, if you've read this far, let me know why! something could be wrong with you....unless you're en route to Dar:-)

Monday, June 6, 2011

IPv6 - Third world networkers catching up

So for the last couple of months I've been thinking hard and working out what I think are major issues with IPv6 adoption within EA.

First of all the regulators in the industry are a major barrier to driving some technologies forward. This is especially so for 'new' stuff that doesn't seem to be making money directly. (*this happens everywhere,  justifying network spend is not easy in an organization, but governments and policy makers are there not for profit so I expect more from them).

The competitive environment among the major players eg Safaricom and Airtel makes it quite difficult for collaboration. Without collaboration what might once have been an easy task suddenly becomes a major issue. I don't mind the politics, but a line has to be drawn somewhere.

If there's one thing I miss about working in a pure ISP environment, it was the easy time we had just being able to chat with our 'rivals' technical people about technology. In telco's, even localized within organization collaboration is really difficult.

What might help:
An open membership forum/working group along the likes of go6 in slovania, for a small country <3M, thay have done quite alot with IPv6.

The membership would be open to ISP's, telcoms, regulators, big corporations, an expert council - to steer things, universities and tertiary colleges and individuals within the region. I say region because the challenges are different and we need to learn from our own experiences while borrowing from others who have done this before.

The main goal would probably be to publicize IPv6, arrange for more training along different lines eg applications, networking, System administration etc. They would host local ipv6 deployment labs, an ipv6 academy etc.

They would ensure that people are talking about IPv6. Help with deployments, put together the information for everyone to access, bring the competitors together, bring government to the table, help universities update their offerings etc etc.

Why do East Africans need IPv6 - well because we are part of the world. Guys are doing alot in this area. I know we are doing quite a bit, but the 'alot' we are doing needs to start being deployed with executive blessings - not some enthusiastic techies working alone during their 'free' time.

I keep insisting that if you are an operator with more than 500K subscribers (Safaricom,Airtel,Zuku), offering multiplay services then you need IPv6. It's clean, ensures end to end connectivity for your services, and its cheaper in the long run , you definately need it more urgently than everyone else. How do you think you'll sell connectivity to all those sensors, set top boxes, home automation stuff,handsets,pos's, atm's etc etc that will mainly ride on wireless networks?

Thinking about it, one of them should come out and sponsor monthly IPv6 meetups.

If you are a network designer/sysadmin/programmer, make sure whatever you design is IPv6 ready. Do not for instance buy from a vendor with no support (not roadmap) for IPv6. Do not build a new data center without an IPv6 plan (believe me I saw one very recently).

Go to afnog, so far it offers the best forum for expression. Unfortunately it happens once a year hence the need for something a little bit different. See you there on Tuesday.