Carl Malamud: Internet Talk Radio, flame of the Internet. This is Geek of the Week and we’re talk­ing to Bernhard Stockman who is tech­ni­cal direc­tor of EBONE, the European back­bone. Welcome to Geek of the Week

Bernhard Stockman: Okay, thank you. Thank you.

Malamud: Why don’t you tell us what EBONE is?

Stockman: Okay. EBONE is a con­sor­tium of European net­work ser­vice providers that has seen the need to go togeth­er to deploy a com­mon infra­struc­ture for European Internet services.

Malamud: Are you the equiv­a­lent of the NSFNET back­bone but for Europe? Are you the tran­sit net­work for Europe?

Stockman: We are not the only one. We are one of them. There are more. Well. 

Malamud: Is there a need for mul­ti­ple tran­sit net­works? Do you hit one mar­ket and they hit anoth­er market?

Stockman: No, no. There’s a need for more. There’s a need for com­pe­ti­tion. But, EBONE was formed— At the time when it was formed, there was no com­mer­cial ser­vice avail­able in Europe. So the R&D com­mu­ni­ty saw the need for them to start off to do it them­selves, until there are com­mer­cial com­peti­tors avail­able. And that is now slow­ly hap­pen­ing in Europe.

Malamud: You say EBONE is a con­sor­tium. What does that mean? Do peo­ple just throw in resources? Is there a cor­po­ra­tion that runs it?

Stockman: No. It’s an asso­ci­a­tion based on a signed mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing on what EBONE shall mean to the mem­bers. The whole thing was formed in September… Well, the first pro­pos­als were draft­ed in September 91. And then it was announced for a meet­ing that every­one that had a net­work could par­tic­i­pate. And that meet­ing, it was decid­ed that the ini­tial for­ma­tion of the back bone should be based on vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions. So that means that what­ev­er resource you had on inter­na­tion­al net­work­ing in Europe, and that you are pre­pared to ded­i­cate to this effort was so to say gath­ered into the pot. And after going around the table and gath­er­ing all these first par­tic­i­pants had, I was [indis­tinct] down to sit down and think what I could do with all these pieces. So that’s what I did. And up came the first ver­sion of the EBONE.

So this was a very infor­mal way of cre­at­ing an inter­na­tion­al back­bone, you could say. And now when the thing has grown very much and it’s regard­ed as a rather big suc­cess, we are start­ing to look at a more for­mal way of cost-sharing. We can’t just go around again and ask for anoth­er year of con­tri­bu­tions because that means that some­one will pay more and some­one less. We are now try­ing to look at fair shares and things like that. So there is a EBONE 93 bud­get now based on a fair con­tri­bu­tion scheme. So we have gath­ered every­thing we had, [indis­tinct] the cost, and shared among the par­tic­i­pants. And the cost is based on the con­nect­ed bandwidth. 


Malamud: The EBONE also pro­vide links to the United States.

Stockman: Yes.

Malamud: Has form­ing a con­sor­tium actu­al­ly reduced the num­ber of links to the US

Stockman: Uh…

Malamud: Is this a region­al solu­tion to networking?

Stockman: It’s a hard ques­tion, because…you could also say what would have hap­pened if you had not coor­di­nat­ed the links? How many still 64k links would you then have seen across the Atlantic? So I believe— Well, as a mat­ter of fact, in one or two cas­es, US links would actu­al­ly be can­celed due to the exis­tence of the EBONE links. But the major ben­e­fit is of course that a lot of net­work orga­ni­za­tions to date do not have to order their own links but can order links to clos­est EBONE bor­der sys­tem, and by that have the con­nec­tion to the United States.

Malamud: What type of work is EBONE doing inter­nal­ly as far as coor­di­nat­ing rout­ing and try­ing to make some sense of the net­work with­in Europe? Obviously you have many dif­fer­ent coun­tries and many dif­fer­ent net­works. Is it a tougher rout­ing prob­lem than we face in the United States?

Stockman: Uh…we are try­ing to make it sim­pler. I mean, one of the state­ments in the mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing for EBONE states that EBONE shall not hot have any restric­tions on traf­fic. So we are not fac­ing inter­nal­ly in EBONE an AUP prob­lem. We can take on any kinds of traffic. 

Now, the rout­ing point you could say is in some sense the oppo­site of the NSFNET. In NSFNET you have a pol­i­cy, and you have to make the region­als adhere to that pol­i­cy. In the EBONE back­bone, we have tak­en out any kind of pol­i­cy in the inter­nal back­bone. And the pol­i­cy that region­als to EBONE may have has to be imple­ment­ed in their con­nec­tion to the EBONE. So if region­als have a pol­i­cy it’s up to them to imple­ment it. EBONE does­n’t imple­ment it.

Malamud: Aren’t you afraid that you’ll be shat­ter­ing a bunch of data into some poor region­al that does­n’t want it? It’s up to them to pro­vide that fire­wall and—

Stockman: Yeah. It is. 

Malamud: Is that, you think, a gen­er­al solu­tion to the ques­tions of pol­i­cy rout­ing and secu­ri­ty and oth­er issues in the net­work, is leave it up to the end­points? And all you are is a bit pump as a tran­sit network?

Stockman: Well, I’m not so sure if that is the case. I mean, if you are look­ing at the secu­ri­ty I think there was some state­ment from some source say­ing that secu­ri­ty is not an issue for the tran­sit net­works but for the end host. I mean, the secu­ri­ty has to be applied at the host. If there’s not suf­fi­cient­ly secu­ri­ty man­age­ment in a host, then it’s very valu­able to threats. And I think the same thing goes here, and if you are going to have all kinds of traf­fic being able to be for­ward­ed by EBONE, then we can­not take on some kind of rout­ing pol­i­cy restric­tions. We have to be able to sup­port all the mem­bers, and those are from the com­mer­cial, from the car­ri­ers, from the gov­ern­ments, and things like that. We have to be able to sup­port all their traffic.

Malamud: Are you in fact a— Do you sup­port com­mer­cial traf­fic on the EBONE?

Stockman: Sure. Sure. Certainly. I mean, the inten­tion here is of course to take advan­tage of com­mer­cial traf­fic being able to use EBONE. This cre­ates income for EBONE. And by that also is to see as a ben­e­fit for the R&D com­mu­ni­ty. I mean if you have a col­lab­o­ra­tion among— If you see col­lab­o­ra­tion among R&D net­works as use­ful and good, why should­n’t that also be valid if you include com­mer­cial net­works, if you coop­er­ate on the broad­er lev­el? So that is the intention. 

Malamud: So EBONE is a cen­tral point where net­works can con­nect. It’s a tran­sit net­work. It’s AUP-free. This sounds like a glob­al Internet exchange, or at least a European Internet exchange.

Stockman: It has been use— Okay. EBONE has two roles today. It has the role of pro­vi­sion of as I said, [indis­tinct] in the glob­al inter­con­nec­tiv­i­ty. It has also the role of pro­vid­ing back­bone capac­i­ty to the European coun­tries. Especially for exam­ple to the east­ern and cen­tral European coun­tries where such con­nec­tiv­i­ty is not being able to pur­chase today. So, they roles may have to be sep­a­rat­ed in the future. But EBONE being some kind of dis­trib­uted GIX is a true state­ment, yes it is. 

Malamud: Now, should oth­er regions such as Africa or the Middle East come up with sim­i­lar solu­tions? Or should EBONE expand to ser­vice those areas? Do you go to Tunisia, for exam­ple, or Algeria?

Stockman: Um…

Malamud: And would you?

Stockman: There is a… If you see to day, there is a con­sor­tium of European net­work ser­vice providers who have cre­at­ed a back­bone. And between there is an agree­ment that they today shall pay a fee that is based on the con­nect­ed band­width, that is how­ev­er not valid if you go out­side of Europe. Because then you have to see to—for exam­ple if you look at US-to-EBONE con­nec­tions. You have to see that the cost is rather sig­nif­i­cant, and that there are inter­ests for exam­ple from NSF, from [AltNet?] or oth­er US net­work­ing ser­vice providers to con­nect to EBONE. So, the agreements—I don’t know if this is for­mal or infor­mal but any­way, how it is done is that each par­ty here pays its half-circuit. So for exam­ple, NSFNET pays the US half-circuit to EBONE, as a con­sor­tium, pays its half-circuit to the US. So, the inter­con­ti­nen­tal links are seen, at least with respect to the US con­nec­tions, as a com­mon resource, a com­mon EBONE resource.

Malamud: Should there be a region­al solu­tion then for let’s say the Mideast or for Africa? Should those coun­tries be learn­ing a les­son from EBONE and try­ing to form a sim­i­lar type of consortium?

Stockman: Well it’s pos­si­ble. I guess if they…have that need. I’m not so sure that they have that need today because the con­sor­tium in Europe was formed because of the mul­ti­tude of unco­or­di­nat­ed links, to try to coor­di­nate them—both inter­nal in Europe and towards oth­er con­ti­nents. And I’m not sure if that is the case for exam­ple in the Middle East and in Africa. But it might be a use­ful way to start to do net­work­ing in these coun­tries, to do it togeth­er of course and share financially-heavy resources.

Malamud: What I’m inter­est­ed in is how do we scale this net­work up to be a tru­ly glob­al net­work. And do we do that with a sin­gle GIX based in Washington DC, or do we begin form­ing region­al solu­tions around the world?

Stockman: Okay. That has to be looked a lit­tle bit more. I mean, we are try­ing to deploy what we call a proto-GIX in Washington DC today to test the whole con­cept out. And if that is successful…okay. And also if there is some kind of— I mean, if you are deploy­ing mul­ti­ple GIX in the world, who is going to pay the inter­con­nec­tion band­width? And what are the rules for these things and— [sighs] If these things are cov­ered, if these kind of admin­is­tra­tive issues are real­ly cov­ered, and if there’s an agree­ment that this is a viable way to do it, sure, it could be done.

We are look­ing at this as you have to have these kind of neu­tral inter­con­nects in the world at some spots where all kinds of net­work ser­vice providers have the pos­si­bil­i­ty to inter­con­nect. And this is of course with the inten­tion to keep the glob­al Internet con­nect­ed. So that we don’t see what some peo­ple see as a threat to the Internet, and that is the frag­men­ta­tion, the balka­niza­tion of the Internet. 

Malamud: Some peo­ple say that a glob­al ATM cloud will solve all these prob­lems, and it’ll pro­vide a vir­tu­al world­wide GIX and it’ll in fact do away with the need for routers alto­geth­er because you are only one hop away from any neigh­bor. Do you see that as a trend?

Stockman: No, I don’t think so. ATM could be used to deliv­er region­al ser­vices, where there’s a need to mul­ti­plex on a low­er lay­er where there’s suf­fi­cient capac­i­ty to do that. But if you’re going to the inter­con­ti­nen­tal lines as we see them today, they are ful­ly loaded, most­ly. And to put anoth­er lay­er of mul­ti­plex­ing on top of that will not increase the uti­liza­tion effi­cien­cy. So I don’t think that is— I don’t believe it’s a good thing today, any­way.

Malamud: So you think push­ing the prob­lems down to the data link is not nec­es­sar­i­ly a solution. 

Stockman: Excuse me?

Malamud: Pushing prob­lems down to the data link, say­ing, Well, we don’t need to deal with these prob­lems at EBONE because ATM is going to take care of em for us.”

Stockman: I don’t think that’s the way, no. No.


Malamud: EBONE has been very active in using BGP as an inter­nal rout­ing pro­to­col, and deploy­ing CIDR and oth­er solu­tions. Can you can you give us some insight as to whether these solu­tion such as CIDR appear to be deal­ing with the prob­lems of rout­ing table explo­sion and address deple­tion? Are these fea­si­ble solu­tions to those problems?

Stockman: Yeah. At least— I mean, this has been dis­cussed at length in IETF and I believe for the com­ing two or three years CIDR will have a…will be a rea­son­able method of deal­ing with these prob­lems. And we will of course in EBONE deploy CIDR and BGP before as well, and we will be part of what is known now as the CIDR core, togeth­er with some of the US fed­er­al back­bones and oth­er back­bones in the United States.

Malamud: Explain what that CIDR core is, and what the pur­pose is.

Stockman: Okay, I’ve not been part of this meet­ing myself. I just very briefly read the min­utes. I don’t know very much about it. But obvi­ous­ly, as I think it is defined here, the CIDR core will be the ini­tial top-level tran­sit back­bones that will go to decide BGP4 at a very ear­ly stage so that lat­er on, region­als behind them can also [indis­tinct] default route or turn to CIDR, what­ev­er they like. But there has to be a top-level BGP4 imple­men­ta­tion in advance of any­thing else below. 

Malamud: So assum­ing many address­es in Europe fall with­in a cer­tain pre­fix that allows EBONE to adver­tise sim­ply that pre­fix to the rest of the world and say, Anything that starts with 1925’ is ours.”

Stockman: Yeah. Well in prin­ci­ple, yes. In prin­ci­ple yes.

Malamud: Now is that gonna work or are we gonna end up with so many excep­tions and so much frag­men­ta­tion that it does­n’t solve the problem?

Stockman: Uh, okay. There is always an entropy into this, and again— I mean, again, this assump­tion that an Internet net­work will be that sta­ble, at least. That the entropy will not destroy the ben­e­fits of CIDR with­in two or three years’ frame­work. So, that is what the whole con­cept is based on. 

Malamud: Is it based on an assump­tion that our growth rate will not increase sub­stan­tial­ly? Is that one of the fun­da­men­tal assumptions?

Stockman: No, not just the growth rate but also— I mean CIDR is based on aggre­ga­tion. And aggre­ga­tion in turn is based on that all the net­works with­in a cer­tain aggre­ga­tion area remain with­in that aggre­ga­tion area. But of course, net­works can move geo­graph­i­cal­ly or change ser­vice providers or what­ev­er. And that of course destroys the ben­e­fits and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of doing aggre­ga­tion via that net­work. But the assump­tion is then that such ten­den­cies will not destroy the over­all ben­e­fits with­in two or three years’ time­frame. That is, as far as I know.


Malamud: There’ve been a lot of efforts around the world to coor­di­nate dif­fer­ent net­work activ­i­ties. There’s been the CCIRN for the intercontinental…what’s it—Committee on Intercontinental Research Networking. There’s been the International Engineering Planning Group—the IEPG. There’s an oper­a­tions direc­torate with­in the IETF. Are any of these bod­ies suc­cess­ful­ly able to coor­di­nate the activ­i­ties of net­works, and do we even need such coor­di­na­tion function.

Stockman: Hm. Interesting ques­tion. Uh, yeah. [sighs] Yes, there is a need for coor­di­na­tion of net­work­ing activ­i­ties. Because some of the con­cepts in Internet can­not be…how do you put it…managed from a sin­gle ser­vice provider, but has to be man­aged over the bound­aries of all the ser­vice providers. For exam­ple, DNS; for exam­ple, address reg­is­tra­tion; for exam­ple, rout­ing pol­i­cy reg­is­tra­tion, and things like that that cross the bor­ders of ser­vice providers.

Malamud: And these are not just standards-making activ­i­ties. These are actu­al­ly oper­a­tional coor­di­na­tion functions.

Stockman: The stan­dards here are of course for exam­ple the BGP4 stan­dard for rout­ing, the DNS stan­dard for DNS servers and things like that that are actu­al­ly being deployed; that’s the stan­dard­iza­tion. Then you have oper­a­tional require­ments on stan­dards. That is fore­see­ing some kind of oper­a­tional needs in some kind of stan­dard that has to be looked at. Then at the deploy­ment lev­el, you have the coor­di­na­tion of actu­al­ly deployed soft­ware, actu­al­ly deployed ser­vices. And today I don’t think there is… There are some kind of efforts to cre­ate such coor­di­na­tion bod­ies, but no one seems to be real­ly glob­al­ly accept­ed today. So we still have a vari­ety of efforts which resem­ble such coor­di­na­tion. For exam­ple in the IEPG; for exam­ple in the oper­a­tions require­ments in the IETF; for exam­ple in RIPE orga­ni­za­tion in Europe. You always see— I mean, if you come to the IETF you could as well have an oper­a­tion coor­di­na­tions meet­ing where it’s the same kind of peo­ple. The usu­al vic­tims always turn up and… 

I mean…it’s just a mat­ter of frameworks—in which frame­work you are meet­ing. So one pos­si­ble thing would be for exam­ple now to invite already-existing ser­vice providers in the net­work­ing are­na, and com­ing net­work ser­vice providers like the car­ri­ers, to have a dis­cus­sion on what kind of coor­di­na­tion body there is a need for, if it exists, and if not who is going to cre­ate it, how is it going to be cre­at­ed and things like that. Even for exam­ple com­pared to the switch­boards, you have such coor­di­na­tion bod­ies. At least in Europe—I believe it’s some­thing called…ETNO…European Telecommunication Network Operators Association—something like that—where there is such coor­di­na­tion among carriers. 

So I mean, the ques­tion here is where is such an initiative—where will it come from? Should it come from the Internet tech­ni­cal peo­ple like me? Should it come from the ser­vice providers, from the car­ri­ers? Well, I don’t think it’s a big issue where it comes from, but it has to be—it has to come from some­where any­way. So why not from us?

Malamud: Well the IETF has always been viewed as a very infor­mal American-centric body, and I’ve heard many peo­ple argue that in order for the Internet and the IETF and oth­ers to be tak­en seri­ous­ly there needs to be some form of inter­na­tion­al accred­i­ta­tion. Do you think the IETF should be locat­ed in Geneva with a head­quar­ters build­ing? And should that be a—you know, Internet Society relo­cate next to the ITU?

Stockman: Wouldn’t that be unfair to the US peo­ple to have it in Switzerland? And would­n’t it be offered to the Swiss peo­ple to have it in the United States? Maybe you should look on the moon or some­thing. I don’t know. 

No. Seriously. Today, the Internet…the net­work, I think around 70%, some­thing like that, is with­in the United States. So I mean… I don’t have a prob­lem with this, per­son­al­ly. It might be that oth­ers have it… I think it’s a rather good idea now till we see that of three IETF meet­ings, prob­a­bly one will hap­pen out of the United States.


Malamud: Well if the Internet Society’s a glob­al orga­ni­za­tion, right now the IETF is based on face-to-face meet­ings three times a year. 

Stockman: Uh huh.

Malamud: Is it real­is­tic to think that 700 to 1000 to 2000 peo­ple are gonna be able to fly around the world, and it does­n’t mat­ter where you are, a sub­stan­tial pop­u­la­tion has to fly in. Are there oth­er ways to do the standards-making process that we do?

Stockman: I’ve no idea. I mean, yeah sure. There is of course a lot of oth­er ways and look at— I don’t know how ISO works but I assume that the com­plete set of ISO rep­re­sen­ta­tives does not meet at once but it has some kind of sub-meetings, sep­a­rate meet­ings, and—

Malamud: Oh ISO is very proud to state that on any giv­en day there are nine meet­ings around the world.

Stockman: [laugh­ing] Okay. I don’t think that’s some­thing to be proud, I don’t know. Depends maybe on the out­put of— Well.

So…sure. I mean IETF is grow­ing rather big and… I mean, for exam­ple we can’t meet at any kind of place today. We have to have spe­cial, big hotels and things like that to be able to host such big meet­ings. And if this ten­den­cy grows and gets even big­ger of course then course comes again the ques­tion of shall we split up, and shall we have for exam­ple sep­a­rate meet­ings between areas or inter­est groups of what­ev­er. That’s a pos­si­ble way of deal­ing with these prob­lems, yes.

Malamud: Well you’re on the Internet Engineering Steering Group, the gov­ern­ing body. Do you find you’re able to par­tic­i­pate effec­tive­ly in that body, or are you con­tin­u­al­ly get­ting on a plane or stay­ing on the phone at three in the morning?

Stockman: Ah, am I a doer or am I a goer. Well unfor­tu­nate­ly I must now char­ac­ter­ize myself as a goer. I’m trav­el­ing a lot and try­ing to orga­nize meet­ings and things like that. And of course I cannot…put in the amount of work I think the oper­a­tions area deserve today. That’s true. So my… Well, the area direc­tor­ship deserve quite a lot of time if it should be man­aged in a good way, and…I don’t think I have the time. That’s true.

Malamud: Should it be a full-time job? Should you take a leave of absence for a year and enter com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice, sort of like the army? 

Stockman: [laughs] Interesting idea. Why not. Why not. Community ser­vice, serv­ing the stan­dards orga­ni­za­tion, who­ev­er. Why not.

No— Okay, if not full-time at least some­thing like 25/30% of full-time is at least need­ed to be able to do the AD work. And for that rea­son you must have sup­port from your employ­er. You have to have time able to set aside for this work. Otherwise you can’t do it on week­ends and evenings. It’s not pos­si­ble to do it. So… Well, that the prob­lem with the IESG being a vol­un­tary orga­ni­za­tion, you know.

Malamud: Is it gonna be able to con­tin­ue, based on vol­un­tary labor? Is it just get­ting too big to handle?

Stockman: I mean… It’s not vol­un­tary in a sense today. I mean it— Those peo­ple who are asked to go to the IESG I assume go back to their home orga­ni­za­tion and ask for per­mis­sion to set aside one, two, three days a week. If they don’t do that, they have a prob­lem. So in that sense it’s not voluntary.

Malamud: It’s vol­un­tary in the sense that you have to serve but then once you’re there you got a job.

Stockman: Yeah. Exactly. Okay, there is no one cen­tral­ly pay­ing you, so in some sense your home orga­ni­za­tion is of course fund­ing this. But it’s bet­ter if they are aware of it. 

Malamud: It cer­tain­ly helps oth­er­wise they might won­der why you’re nev­er in the office, huh?

Stockman: Exactly, exact­ly. Or you’re doing a bad job. Because your not giv­ing it the time it deserves.

Malamud: But ulti­mate­ly do you find that your work with the IESG and the IEPG are ben­e­fi­cial to your employer?

Stockman: Oh sure it is. Certainly it is. 

Malamud: What do they get out of it?

Stockman: Uh…I mean…they get out of it a lot of, first of all knowl­edge of the standards-making process as such and, in Europe that is recent­ly becom­ing more and more known, right. I mean, a cou­ple years ago IETF was not that known in Europe. It was known in some small sub-communities of the net­work­ing peo­ple. But now today, because of more and more involve­ment from European peo­ple it’s start­ing to get very well known in Europe. And of course one [indis­tinct] seri­ous [indis­tinct] the Amsterdam meet­ing that we all— Well, actu­al­ly shows that there is an IETF Europe as well. 

And that is one thing. Now, the sec­ond thing is then that European orga­ni­za­tions, by see­ing the IETF as a standards-making body also have the pos­si­bil­i­ty once they know that it exists and it func­tions to influ­ence the stan­dards and by that influ­ence their own home envi­ron­ment, in the net­work­ing scene.

Malamud: Well thank you very much. This has been Geek of the Week. We’ve been talk­ing to Bernhard Stockman, a tech­ni­cal direc­tor of EBONE, the European backbone. 


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