Dublin’s rising star in community groups for Network Operators and its latest round of Meetup talks on the future possibilities for networking!

As Pete Lumbis once said, “What do you call a group of network engineers? An outage!” That little gem would certainly go down a treat at the iNOG Meetup I went to just last week! Such a Meetup is also a reason why network engineers would get together, as was the case last Thursday! Enter Dublin’s community group iNOG and their latest Meetup on Thursday June 21st, 2018 at Workday! A great agenda awaited network operators of all kinds along with those interested in networking but not currently in the professional space!

Entering the Meetup was certainly notable given the deliberate effort on behalf of the organisers to get folks to be welcoming to all members, especially those new ones who may the floating around in solo mode. iNOG was founded in 2015 by Donal O Duibhir and Cristian Sirbu as a community group for network operators and those with an interest in networking. As a former community manager, I could see very clearly the level of organisation, effort and belief put into the Meetup by Donal, Cristian and the many volunteers there who were supporting the event! Kudos to all for a job well done!

So, with the platform set, we embarked on an engaging agenda broken up by a quick quiz round with some iNOG goodies to give away! The fun involved was in the trepidation and the speed of reply to questions by members. Kudos was given by all to the winners, which to me was another sign of the community group feeling I got when I arrived. Great job guys… oh and well done to the winners also!! Moving into the first talk was Vesna Manojlovic of RIPE NCC, who gave a very important talk on ethics in networking. She went into detail on our responsibility to the end users who consume services on our network and how they should be the number one consideration in our decision-making! This sentiment is in line with the IEEE code of ethics for engineers, whom make ethical decision-making in the public interest a primary objective of its ethical code.

Up next was Matt Oswalt, Founder of Network Reliability Engineering and David Gee of Juniper Networks who delivered fascinating insights on current engineering and business attitudes to network automation. Matt went into detail on reliability engineering and explained how automation tools do not allow business leaders to shed network-engineering jobs, nor does it allow them to necessarily get network operations completed in a faster manner. He explained how these misunderstandings occur and how network reliability engineering hits the sweet spot making network engineers more effective for the same time spent. As part of their role, network engineers are operating programs to complete tasks, thus freeing up valuable time to do other things that will deepen network quality in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. This is often lost on non-network personnel leading to potential problems in scaling, operational flexibility and maintaining availability.

David echoed Matt’s sentiments and outlined the benefits of a DevOps approach to network automation, as been a good idea. The use of modern software development practices in favour of quick scripts is often the case thanks to intuitional bias for many network engineers who favour the old stalwart of scripting to get tools working quickly. The DevOps approach allows software developers like me for example to develop more modern tools using modern development practices and approaches! The time spent in development is longer for the initial tool but the claw-back comes in reliability, reusability of software components, updatability and robustness. Developing for test as an approach makes resulting software developed more robust and able to cope with curveballs thrown at it by the network or indeed by the user. It also can detect changes to original programming increasing software quality and keeping the engineer informed on what they are running on the network.

Next up was Sofia Silva Berenger of APNIC who talked about the sharing of publicly available BGP session data with APNIC with the view to make things better. The BGP session controls the connectivity between device interfaces providing valuable routing and control data. This makes network, security and compute analytics possible. APNIC is interested in partnerships with network providers to build a better global network for all through structured sharing of publicly available BGP session data!

Last talk of the evening came from Workday’s Eric Leahy and Daniele Vazzola who talked about Workdays journey in network automation. He ran through the process from a scripting start in Python to the really cool network health user interface called Visceral. It packed a wow punch in-terms of visual look and feel; but as you drilled into the UI to the next layer, the displays of switches and routers became a very busy place. Daniele is advising that they are looking to open source a version of it so front end developers who are good with responsive design could look at the lower layers for an smoother user experience tracking down misbehaving switches and routers through the UI.

iNOG has a strong social element, which was set to continue after the Meetup as attendees headed off to a local pub post the community notices and closing comments by the organisers. Given the success of the event, I think the subsequent iNOG – RIPE NCC hackathon on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th of June won’t fail to disappoint for those interested in networking and network automation. It’s a fine thought indeed that once again, an area of technology has a passionate cadre of committed professionals making up the backbone of its existence and is so committed to engineering a better future! Long may it last!

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