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February 29, 2016

NANOG 66: Study Up on Security, Pack Your T-Shirts and Leave the Khakis at Home

Scott Silverstein, Principal Product Marketing Manager

By Scott Silverstein

Principal Product Marketing Manager

I had the opportunity to attend my first NANOG event in San Diego recently, joining Infinera colleagues who are long time NANOG veterans. I quickly learned that NANOG attendees bring a strong focus on technology, and a “style” sense to match.

What is NANOG: The North America Network Operator’s Group (NANOG) is the professional association for Internet engineering and architecture. NANOG states that it is “collaborating to make the Internet better through the coordination and dissemination of technical information related to backbone/enterprise networking technologies and operational practices of today’s Internet.”

This large stakeholder group that started in 1994 meets three times a year to discuss all issues, large and small, as they relate to the performance, accessibility and evolution of the Internet. NANOG’s 66th event (NANOG 66) was the second largest of the series with over 500 attendees. While the event had plenty of solid networking sponsors, this show is all about the engineers networking and learning from each other.

Who Attended This NANOG: NANOG members are typically drawn from the core engineering and product staffs of the major North American carriers, content providers, hosting and cloud companies, multi-tenant data centers, and interconnection service providers.

Naturally, when that kind of influential group gets together, others will want to hear about their challenges and directions, and contribute their own opinions and solutions. Among the attendees were several fiber network infrastructure providers, looking to address the exploding demand for data center interconnect capacity. In fact, many folks I spoke with expressed interest in building new fiber routes and offering dark fiber to NANOG members’ companies.

NANOG’s community of world-class networking experts, and their strong focus on open sharing, also attracts students and professors working on the cutting edge of networking problems and learning about real-world applications. Perhaps some of the students were also looking for their next employer, or their next graduate study topic. It was definitely a great place for them to network.

What to Wear at NANOG: I quickly learned that this event is all about the T-shirts, the people wearing them and those who weren’t. I saw engineers sporting their NANOG 2 and 3 shirts, clearly proud of their longevity in NANOG. I was immediately typecast as a sales or marketing person because of my khakis and button-down shirt!

Security, a Hot Topic: A topic that is always interesting, and recently has been back in the spotlight, is security. Security includes network security, infrastructure security and encryption. The need for advancements in line rate encryption for 100G and terabit speed networks is growing more critical for data center owners, operators and their end users.

The topic was timely for Infinera since we were showing our Cloud Xpress CX-100 with line-rate encryption. That just added to the overall traction and growing interest in the Cloud Xpress family of platforms, still the only small form factor data center interconnect platform that can reach 150 kilometers without amplifiers. NANOG attendees who are continually growing their networks recognize the need for simplicity, automation, fewer network elements and ultra-low power consumption – all of which Cloud Xpress delivers – and they appreciated the added value of end-to-end encryption built into the product. Take a closer look at the Cloud Xpress here.

Beer-n-Gear: No NANOG blog would be complete without a mention of the Beer ‘n Gear event. It reminded me of Walmart on Black Friday. Hundreds of engineers and attendees waiting for the opening of the big tent while all of the sponsors were inside stacking everything from water bottles and bottle openers to socks and (of course) T-shirts! NANOG does a great job making sure everyone is well-fed with plenty of hydration available. When those doors opened it was a mad rush – not to the free beer as one might expect, but instead the mad rush was for T-shirts since the real prize was getting the right size.

Now that I’m a NANOG veteran, I’m looking forward to returning for future NANOG meetings. And next time I’ll know to bring my T-shirts and jeans.

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