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The UpTake by UpStack: Volume 1

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  • Jeff August, UpStack’s Chief Strategy Officer, interviews Christian Koch, Director of Special Projects at PacketFabric and co-founder of NYNOG. In this interview they discuss the formation of NYNOG, born out the roots of NANOG, and the evolution of the Edge. 

  • 00:01 Jeff August:

    Hello everybody and welcome to the first ever episode of The Uptake, conversations with technology leaders, hosted by UpStack. I’m the Upstack Chief Strategy Officer, Jeff August and I will be hosting this show. And today I have a guest that I’ve known since he was in the San Francisco Bay area. We both worked at Jack Dorsey companies at the time. Telstra was throwing a Community Service Day, and we went to go clean the garden at an elementary school, and he was at Twitter, I was at Square and now we’ve both moved on in different directions. But ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Christian Koch, Director of Special Projects at PacketFabric and co-founder of NYNOG and also just very well connected in the Edge community. How are you doing today, Christian?

     

    00:48  Christian Koch:

    Hi Jeff, thanks for having me. Doing well.

     

    00:50  Jeff August:

    Thanks for coming on. So I think we’re going to keep this quick, and that’s the idea anyway, so I’ll give you quick question. This last year I went to NANOG in Washington DC and it really struck me how, from the very first time I ever went to NANOG back in San Diego years ago, how there was probably like around 300 people there, tops. Now it’s just a mega conference. There’s a thousand people period. And I noticed that you are the co-founder of NYNOG, which seems to me to be an interesting way to kind of get back to the roots of NANOG, which is a kind of more smaller, intimate gathering with a lot of work getting done and not as many vendor meetings and whatnot. So can you just tell us a little bit about NYNOG? Is that the point and is that why you set it up? What’s going on with that?

     

    01:41 Christian Koch:

    Yeah, thanks Jeff. So about NYNOG, really interesting. Just over three years ago now, we kind of kicked around this idea, myself and my friend and colleague Dave Temkin; CHINOG in Chicago has been going for years now. Why don’t we have something like this in New York? And we kind of asked each other, “Would this work?” And we asked some other marketing people and some other companies, “Would this work?” And they were like, “Yeah, we should try it.” And the whole point behind that, though, was there are a lot of people in New York City, as you can imagine, which means there are a lot of network engineers, system engineers, critical facilities engineers – people that are involved in internet infrastructure. And I bet you there’s a lot of those people that A) don’t like to travel or B) can’t get a travel budget from your company, C) might not even know about NANOG. And this group of people, they need and they deserve a place to go to learn from their peers and to talk about technology and learn from their peers.

     

    03:01 Christian Koch:

    So we kind of gave it a shot and we started NYNOG. And with the first event we threw, I can tell you I was nervous and I thought there was going to be like 30 people there. It ended up being there’s 130 people registered, maybe.

     

    03:13 Jeff August:

    Oh nice.

     

    03:15 Christian Koch:

    Way over a hundred people showed up. And at that point, we were kind of like, “Okay, this can’t be as casual as we kind of first thought it could be. And we should turn into a nonprofit, raise some money from some sponsors.” So we’ve got some really great sponsors, right? Kentik and Myriad360 and Juniper Network, Siena…the list goes on, right? And we really appreciate those guys because they help us throw these events and give these engineers a place to come and have a drink after work and unwind and meet people. And a lot of feedback –

     

    03:47  Jeff August:

    Talk about networking, right?!

     

    03:48 Christian Koch:

    Yeah, exactly. In a lot of the feedback we get, and I’ll tell you, we’ve just had our 13th NYNOG this past last week. And I talked to two people who were like, “I’ve never even heard of NANOG.” So how about that? How about that for instance? NANOG’s growing really big, yet you’ve got engineers that are not so new. This guy’s been in the industry for, I think, over six or seven years he told me, and he’s never even heard of NANOG.

     

    04:16 Jeff August:

    Wow.

     

    04:18 Christian Koch:

    So we’re doing our thing and we’re going to continue to do it and continue to give engineers a place to come, a safe space where they can come and feel inclusive and come and talk and learn to people that are working in the same profession or the same industry as each other.

     

    04:39  Jeff August:

    So PacketFabric. Software defined networking is a huge topic. People are talking about it. It’s just kind of coming into the mainstream. What are you guys doing at PacketFabric that you’re allowed to talk to me about right now?

     

    04:55 Christian Koch:

    Yeah. So I think we’re doing a lot of interesting things, Jeff. Number one, is we’re making it easier for the enterprise and mid market to connect their network and their resources to third party resources such as a cloud service providers or security services or other application or X-as-a-service providers that live in a cloud-based environment or somewhere else around the country or around the world. And we do that by providing our customers an API that we can interact with and write software against, or they can go into our management portal and click a button and get the services they need and connect to the resources they need to. And this is the way we see the world going. It’s a cloud first world now and we’re seeing more and more networks like us being driven by software. And software-first should also be the approach, just like cloud-first is the approach as most people look at infrastructure.

     

    06:06  Jeff August:

    Yeah. Interesting article you sent me earlier today where Charles Myers, Equinix CEO actually, I think he probably said cloud-first world in that thing at least three or four times. It seems to be the way it’s all headed, right? Which leads me to-

     

    06:21 Christian Koch:

    Yes. Yes.

     

    06:23 Jeff August:

    To my next question, which is you and I have been doing this a long time now. Like when we first started, when I first started working on this stuff at Yahoo, like in 2007, the Edge network, the thing that we were building was basically caching. We would just put a couple of racks out to cache pictures for news articles and decided that we could do certain parts of the world for cheaper than what we were paying third party people to do it. But the Edge has evolved so much over 12-13 years now. And a lot of what you just talked about, at PacketFabric directly impacts the way the Edge will grow and change. And so what do you see in the next five to seven years? What do you think the Edge will look like in 2025 versus 2019?

     

    07:08 Christian Koch:

    Yeah, that’s a really good point, Jeff. And I think you and I have both seen that and understand that the Edge is here. And the Edge has been here, right? You’ve seen it. Like you said, at Yahoo and I’ve seen it many places…

     

    07:22 Jeff August:

    Actually, at Yahoo with Dave Temkin. How weird is that?

     

    07:25 Christian Koch:             

    Oh wow. See, look. And now he’s done it with Netflix, right? And other people have done it. Google has done it. I don’t know, it’s way over 10 years now that Google has been, and other companies have been, embedding caching servers and proxy servers into ISP networks. And how much further down can you go than that? And you could probably go a little bit further, but that’s pretty, pretty deep down to the Edge, speaking.

     

    07:57  Jeff August:

    Yeah, it’s getting to the Edge and then you’re in there embedded, and now it’s just making it do more and more things, like turning the Edge into your Swiss army knife.

     

    08:05 Christian Koch:

    Right. And I’ll tell you, I take a little bit more of the contrarian view on this and look at this more from the angle of, there’s a bunch of people out there saying that, “Oh my God, the cloud is so centralized.” Sure. Maybe for someone really far away, but if your cloud is AWS US East in Ashburn, Virginia and you live in Washington DC, that’s an Edge to you, right?

     

    08:35  Jeff August:

    Yeah, that’s really close.

     

    08:38 Christian Koch:

    So all of that stuff just isn’t really thought about and you get just a lot of hype right now, right? And I think it’s going to be awhile before things really start to evolve and we see what’s going to be real and what’s not going to be real. For one example, CloudFlare – CloudFlare and Packet are two to bring attention to. Those are going to be the real enablers of the Edge, right? CloudFlare is right now, actually offering edge compute services and they’re in like almost 200 POPs around the world. You can run your application on all those servers for a couple bucks a month. Packet is going to be the one that is offering the server, the bare metal.

     

    09:19 Jeff August:

    Yeah, the bare metal cloud, right? Bare metal cloud.

     

    09:23 Christian Koch:

    Your bare metal cloud, your edge. And you’re going to go deep into those edges and you’re going to be able to run your application on their servers. So depending on what you want – do you want to get a bare metal server and have all of that flexibility to do whatever you want with it or do you want to run specific applications and use and leverage specific resources, where someone like CloudFlare, that provides that service? I think that’s kind of where it’s going, but it’s going to take a few years before things really start to suss out.

     

    09:47  Jeff August:

    Awesome. Well, I want to thank you very much for your time. I promised 10 minutes and I think we’ve probably went a little bit over that. But I really appreciate it and good luck and I’ll see you at NYNOG in December.

     

    09:59 Christian Koch:

    Thanks Jeff. It’s great to talk to you.

     

    10:01 Jeff August:

    All right. Bye guys.

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