My InfoWorld Column About NANOG

Bob Metcalfe bob_metcalfe at
Fri Jun 21 15:31:32 UTC 1996

Dear NANOG List,

Thanks for your critiques of my NANOG meeting critique column in InfoWorld.

Below is a copy of a draft (before editing) of the offending column, just
in case some of you have been reading only one another's critiques instead
of the column itself.  Of course I stand by it.

Some of you guys/gals are very good at ad hominem attacks.  Flaming is
alive and well on the Internet.  Tisk tisk.  But then I asked for it.
Anyway, the attention is flattering.  Thank you.

A few of you missed one point at least.  I am NOT suggesting that any of
YOU start wearing suits, especially if you find them uncomfortable, or that
they make a statement you are not willing to make -- none of that, no --
good engineers are too valuable to overdress.  I am suggesting that more of
the kind of people who ALREADY wear suits should start paying attention to
the important work NANOG is attempting and start attending your meetings so
they can pitch in on the non-engineering aspects of operating the Internet.
Is that clearer now?

By the way, there are reports from two days ago that 400,000 people lost
their Internet access for 13 hours.  Sounds like an outage approaching
"collapse."  Was that just a Netcom thing that NANOG has no interest in?
Netcom is not talking very much about what happened.  Any clues/facts out
there?  Were any NAPs involved?

/Bob Metcalfe, InfoWorld


InfoWorld / From the Ether / Bob Metcalfe

NANOG Meeting Column


The North American Network Operations Group (NANOG) remains our best bet
for managing through the Internet's coming collapses.  Problem is, like the
Internet, NANOG itself is struggling to scale up.
    I've just been among the 350 mostly engineers attending NANOG's May
meeting at George Washington University.  It's clear now, even if they hate
the idea, that if NANOG is to lead us toward an industrial-strength
Internet, then it must now urgently attract the active participation of
many more men and women who routinely wear suits.
    Here, on April Fool's Day, I nominated NANOG as that organization best
positioned to lift the Internet out of its current, disfunctional
operations anarchy.  I then incorrectly identified NANOG as part of the
Internet Society's Internet Engineering and Planning Group (IEPG), a
seemingly defunct sister of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
Turns out I was wrong about what I'd read on the Web at
    For the next two weeks postings on NANOG's message archive flamed me
for not knowing that NANOG is moderated by the Merit Network at the
University of Michigan (  NANOG, I was told, has
nothing to do with the Internet Society.  And further, the Internet Society
has nothing to do anymore with the IETF.
    Checking with a pal at the Society, I was told that IETF has been
arguing about disassociating from the Internet Society, and, oh by the way,
Merit is "irrelevant."
    Yes, I found pettiness and bureaucratic infighting among the groups I
had hoped would be pulling the Internet together.  I stand corrected, but
not reassured.
   Back at NANOG, I was surrounded by people whose life is about "running
code."  I twiddled as these mostly engineers, unaccustomed as they are to
public speaking, stood up one by one in front of 350 people without having
ever tried their slides on GWU's projection system.  We all waited while
Windows booted.  If you have running code, it seems, you don't have to
respect your audience by checking your slides at least once in advance.  Or
by wearing a suit.
    NANOG's opening presentations on "The State of the Internet" were given
by the four Network Access Points (NAPs).  Pacific Bell
(http://www.PacBell.COM/Products/NAP), Sprint
(, Ameritech
(, and MFS Datanet
( each showed how very connected they are to
various of the big Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  They are installing
new equipment to meet ramping demand, are operating well below capacity,
and are not losing even a single Internet packet ever, they said.
    Then came the three large Network Service Providers (NSPs).  Sprint,
ANS (, and MCI ( each
showed, after some Macintosh booting, that they are installing new
equipment to meet ramping demand, are operating well below capacity, and
are not losing even a single Internet packet ever, they said.
    Then the fit hit the shan.  Various earnest young speakers from Merit
stood up one by one to report "alarming" statistics from the Internet --
rapidly increasing packet loss rates and routing instabilities
(  They asked the NAPs
and NSPs, "Where are so many packets being lost?"
    "Somewhere else," came the denial.
    Then followed an afternoon and another morning of pleadings.  For
standards on traffic measurements.  For regular outage reporting.  For
cooperation on gathering topological information to use in Internet
operations management.  For streamlining multilateral "peering agreements"
among ISPs.  For systematic use of an Internet Routing Registry.  And, from
an actual Internet user, pleadings for cooperation on end-to-end service
    Sadly, there was nobody at NANOG with the organizational sophistication
to grab hold of these pleadings and accelerate them toward action.  So,
hey, I've got an idea, let's ask the business executives to whom current
attendees of NANOG report to buy some T-shirts and take over.  The Internet
needs more than running code.
    Now, what would happen if some of NANOG's big university, NAP, and NSP
regulars showed up among the many small commercial ISPs expected August
8-10 at ONE ISPCON in San Francisco?  I'll be summarizing there.  See or call 800-933-6038.



Dr. Robert M. ("Bob") Metcalfe
Executive Correspondent, InfoWorld and
VP Technology, International Data Group

Internet Messages: bob_metcalfe at
Voice Messages: 617-534-1215

Conference Chairman for
ACM97: The Next 50 Years of Computing
San Jose Convention Center
March 1-5, 1997

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