Kentik - Network Observability
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Network AF  |  Season 1 - Episode 15  |  April 12, 2022

Understanding data analysis and online activity with David Belson

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Network AF host and Kentik CEO Avi Freedman discusses data analysis and trends in understanding online activity with David Belson. David is Cloudflare's Head of Data Insight, where he helps the organization communicate information about the internet such as outages and changes in protocol adoption.

Throughout the conversation the two discuss:

  • Dave's beginning in networking and his role at BBN
  • Data analysis growth from the early internet
  • Helping people learn skills through product education
  • Tracking the digital footprint of online activity
  • Advice for communicating and building media relationships


Hi, and welcome to network a f. On this episode, I'm talking with my friend and once collaborator and hopefully future collaborator, again, Dave Belson, We're talking about data analysis, what's going on on the internet, and helping people understand all that.

David, could you give us a little bit of a background in what you're doing now? Sure. So, I recently joined Cloudflare, where I'm the head of data insight.

Cloudflare for for those who don't know.

Our mission is to help build a better internet, by offering a a variety of content delivery security acceleration services.

And my role right now is to help do that by using our data to communicate about what's going on in the internet. So, you know, when something goes when something happens, an outage, or or, you know, changes in protocol adoption, things like that, wanna be able to communicate about it and and kind of inform the industry, that this is what's happening out there.

Cool. It's been interesting for me to see cloudflare as they've grown.

David Yulevich, who did open DNS introduced me to Matthew back in, I think, two thousand nine, It's, ish.

And, we actually it's when I was at service central, we actually gave the first six servers, I think.

And then later introduced, a friend of mine who became a Kentic co founder who ran ops there. Doing net booted containerized provisioning stuff.

I guess that could have been a startup, but, just used for technology. And, you know, it's been interesting to see the more product led approach, but then, you know, all the growth. And, you know, thank you for helping us get started. No worries.

But it's fascinating just to see the different approaches that you can take not only technology to business.

You know, that that people have there.

So, you know, back in the way back, you've been infrastructure for a while. It's like when when I started at Akamai and I think you predated me a little still a bit. Yep. You know, Akamai was just becoming the cool place where, you know, the brain sucking cool place in Cambridge Massachusetts.

But you were at BBN, which used to be that place. That used to be the place. Everyone was like, oh, the mecca in the sky and Right. You know, doing cool stuff helping build the internet. Like, how did you get into networking and how did you find, you know, your way into VPN? I I guess it's sort of I guess I'd have to say it started in college.

So I went to, Stephen's Institute of Technology, in beautiful Hoboken, New Jersey. It's actually not as bad as people like to joke it is.

But so I I I started there. I was a freshman in nineteen ninety, So my first exposure there was probably to bitnet.

And, I remember we had, pay phones in the hallway. And I had a friend up in, Amherst college. And so he was on bitnet also. So we're, like, running back and forth to the pay phone. We had Vax, or what? We had Vax class Yeah. I'm gonna backsluster.

And, you know, alright. Try sending it to this address. Try sending it to the editor. We finally got it working. So it was like, okay. This is pretty cool. And then I think somebody should somebody else showed me, you know, anonymous FTP.

And, so it just kind of grew from there. This was you know, arguably pre web.

I I do remember my first experience with the web was with the, the certain line mode browser.

And, you know, kinda played with it for probably ten minutes or so. Like, this is, like, this is hard to use. Like, this is not gonna go anywhere. But when started when I was doing the planning for my ISP in ninety two, I tried using I started in ninety two earlier in ninety two.

I try I tried using dub, dub, dub, which was not line by line, but I was just, like, gonna go for as much. Go for as there's much margin. Library of Congress is on Gofer. Let's do that.

So Yeah. I mean, thankfully, it evolved pretty quickly from there because my my bachelor's thesis was, on computer media and communication.

So it was this this book called The Network Nation that had been written about twenty twenty years earlier, so in the mid seventies. And it was this projection of, like, you know, we'll we'll do we'll, you know, a network nation or the network nation? The the network nation. Okay. By Hilton Taroff. And, you know, but it it's sort of predated and and, you know, I argue with predicted things like, you know, Usenet and, discussion boards and, you know, all the things we take for granted these days.

So my my thesis was looking at, all the predictions that had made and saying, They were basically saying, you know, they were predicting them for roughly the mid nineties. So I went and took a look at them and said, okay. How many of them have come come true? So so in my thesis there is, you know, reference as to various news groups and to vax notes and to to, you know, facts gateways. And I look back now and I'm like, holy cow, this is, you know, some of it survived, some of it didn't, and and some of it we just don't even think about. My personal passion is to help anybody that wants to make you using it at the basis of web three.

You know, where we're dealing with these same questions about moderation and that that original, like, oh, no. Someone's running on the internet that was actually using it that they were talking about at this time. It's I mean, not to say that these are solved problems, but they're not new problems. Yes.

Yeah. So so I, you know, I I was I think got into it that way, moved to Boston to go to, northeastern for grad school. And was casting about for a job, like, an internship or something, that spring of ninety five, and found an ad for, BBN Planet at the time. So that was their, their internet subsidiary looking for people to do web stuff.

They were spinning up a a management posting business, and I looked at the ad and I'm like, well, I've done four out of those five things. I always want their alert pearl. So I'm gonna apply. I didn't realize it was like a bike right away. I'm like, holy cow, the people who invented the internet are like, you know, two miles from where I was living because this is pretty cool.

So, yeah, joined there. And, you know, I think BBN was was, you know, littered with X deck folks, and and then ultimately Akamai was littered with X BBN folks. In MIT. Yeah.

Yeah. Yeah. Better. Of course. Right. There was their MIA board at at the media at the sorry.

Yeah. MediaLab Yep. CS department, which was MI missing in Akamai.

I think the week I joined Akamai think I was in either they hired two hundred people. Oh, wow. Wow. Yeah. InfoSec has gotten better. I think when the network people showed up, I plopped an I plopped a a WiFi gateway just like on a random ethernet just so that we could so they love that. Cards.

That was I remember, you know, looking at I had pulled out at some point, my my algorithms book. You know, with the algorithms book and and, like, open it up a yep. Yep. And I was looking through the acknowledgements and I'm, like, holy cow, like, three quarters of these people that are acknowledged here work at Akamai. Well, I remember it it was funny. Like, the second week I was at Akamai, Charles came up to music, Avi. Did you know that the triangle inequality does not hold on the internet?

Like, you mean that going indirectly can faster than going directly along the hypotenuse. He's like, yes. Exactly. He's like, oh, okay. Yes. I do know that.

Frequently, we set static route to go around, you know, peering when we're at at Netog, and we need to get to our own networks. Like, you know, so I'm aware of that. But oh, just, you know, like, interesting the different cultures. You know, you had to be you had to have had a computer science background if you wanted to be a network person working.

Right. At Akubai so you could communicate with people. And that that ultimately that realization ultimately turned into a product or I guess not product but a feature. Sure.

Yeah. It was a feature of platform, and then, you know, got pulled out.

But Bruce and Bruce Mag is the coolest, you know, I I had my Blackberry and I had, I had hacked the email client send me something which Prokmill would use to do folders in the lab without running exchange. Okay. And then he got the code. I get issued gave him a code, and then he made it, like, know, he encrypted it, you know, just to, like, you know, it was like, hey, I can still go to it.

It's like, yeah. Awesome. Never group actually started inside inside that. Inside the engineering for a little bit, before, growing out of it.

So data analysis, I'm gonna say analysis. We can talk about what that what insight means because, you know, there's data and then there's making sense of it. Right.

How did you getting to that from, you know, you know, more tech, hands on work and even sales engineering effectively and product thing at, you know, Akamai. Yep. Yeah. So that was just the path I had come through with sales engineering and then, into the product team.

And I was, working for Brad Rinkley, the CMO, time. And, he called me to his office one day, and he's, like, shows me this presentation.

And says, hey, you know, we've been thinking about this and we've got a lot of, you know, we collect a lot of data. We've got a lot of, I would say I shouldn't say collect, but, you know, the the optimized services throw off a lot of data sauce. We call it the mapping fumes. The fumes are mapping the Yeah.

Basically, and it's like, you know, we should try to do something that we can give back to the community with Okay. Let me, you know, let me go take a look. So I did give a presentation, thought about it, and there was some, you know, came up with some we we came up with some ideas about, connection speed, connection quality, you know, outages, things like that. And I was like, okay.

This is interesting. Now I gotta figure out Where am I gonna find this data? Like, you know, where does this live in Akamai?

Mhmm. And somebody might have been you. I don't remember, but said, hey, you know, there's this team here that that does data analysis.

I was like, okay.

So they connected me with a couple of folks in the team.

Went to talk to them, and they said, oh, yeah. You know, we we we analyze it this way and this way, you know, it can be sort of a, you know, the menu. And so we we started out with a couple of things, the the first, it was ultimately what crew went to the state of the internet. Right.

Yeah, the first issue, that we did back in, q one two thousand eight. I think it didn't even have connections to be dated. It was more, like, I don't even know why we did it. It was it was, like, IP I think it was something to do with the the number of IP addresses we saw by geography, like, but but per capita.

So I think the notion was where were we seeing sort of more internet adoption as a pro or proxy for adoption.

You know, on a on a geographic level, anything that that and and then also I think we started looking at connection speeds, but in aggregate, you know, we we defined, I think, what was it called? Low low low band?

I forget what it was called. But looking basically, like, dial up percentages, and then broadband percentages, and then what we call high broadband, which I think at the time was, like, ten megabits.

And then as we as we evolve the report, we also evolved along with the FCC, definitions of broadband. Yeah. No. That makes sense.

Back in two thousand, we got approached. Actually, they wanted to go meet with Danny, but Richard Clark, met with me, and I showed him the knock, and was maybe a little visionary describing what some of our capabilities were to analyze the data. And then six months later, there was a you know, Booz Allen to go for it. There was a a presidential task in order to get a synoptic view of the internet from some guy named Avi.

So we figured that out. But now, obviously, Akama never looked at customer data, but looking at the internet and name servers and and Actually, at the time, everyone was worried about the resolver about the authoritatives. I was worried about the resolvers. You know, if those are on any casted, don't have enough capacity then, you know, no one can resolve and get to websites.

And so, yeah, we had, we had had, some of that going, for trying to understand things, protect. And so eventually, state of the internet wound up having some security in terms of, attack and deducts and performance.

I know. I apologize.

You know, when Kentik was starting, we talked about adding a trends in traffic and Now we have Doug doing that.

But, we never we never quite got that got that going. But, we yeah. I mean, we we we incorporated it a little bit. I had I had corporated, what was it called? Internet events and outages, I think, where using the aggregate traffic data, we were able to show when there was an outage, you know, were shot down in a given country.

And and I remember Doug and I when he was at Renaissance, you know, we we found off of each other. Okay. We just saw this weird, you know, traffic shift here or here. You know, did you see the same thing in PGP or, or or vice versa?

We also looked at, I think it was real life. Got my first taste of, like, how real world events not outages, but but actual events can can be seen through traffic. So I think it was the, Obama's first inauguration we're able to look at, and that's probably streaming traffic on the platform.

And, you know, we we're able to chart and say show that the as the inauguration went on, you know, traffic went up and up and up and up. And then I think as soon as he finished speaking and the poet laureate took over, you know, started, like, the traffic just fell off a cliff, and it was sort of interesting to see that. And I think we also had looked at e commerce traffic, aggregate e commerce traffic at the time as well. And you could see e commerce traffic dropping as the inauguration went on.

And then at some point, as the inauguration finished, e commerce traffic came back up. Twenty years ago, was Steve Jobs and Victoria's Secret, but you need to compare those events too. Those those were no longer I I know. I was, I I kinda think if I was even there at that point.

I must have been, but I think I was busy being an SC and not paying a lot of attention to that side of the house. Yeah. No. That was I I mean, I had started in October.

I guess you started May. So or or, you know, so, yeah. Know that is, you know, it's it's funny. I'll just share one story.

So when, you know, in the nineties, I got confused as a sys admin trying to understand networking. I just started teaching people about BGP, and people are like, oh, you know, what's this question about XNA, you know, and and and, X Twenty five, SNA and X Twenty five, and and Apple Talk, and how do you do all this stuff? It's like, I don't have a CCI either, like, but you have to have a CCI.

You know, it's like, but they would and and, you know, I don't. I mean, you know, I know some stuff, and I can talk about it. But at Akamai, I just I felt like an imposter because I would go out And I sort of understood how websites are built, and I know coding, and I know assist admin. And I knew what Akama did, but I couldn't, you know, like, tell you how to do it with metadata and all that.

And I remember, because you were a technical consultant, you know, it was a sales engineering, basically. And I remember when Danny took over the product group, he made, all the product people take the Oh, the test. Test. Yes.

And Danny was like, oh, you'd be able to do it finally, Danny. No. You have no idea. Like, no.

I just I just bullshit well. And, like, I have a I have a connected understanding of what you can do. But I when you, you know, it has to be dangerous and you have you don't have to be dangerous and you have the confidence to talk about it. I think Right.

Well, that's the thing. You know, I tried to explain to people, like, you can do it too. Like, you don't have to go do all that, but, so I mad props because I saw that TC Master test, and I was like, that that's it. I I remember I don't I think I was a TC manager by the time we started doing it.

So I think I I the only the only recollection I have of it was flying to It was a hotel somewhere. Like, all the PC managers came together in a hotel somewhere that Evan had insisted was halfway between the East Coast and coast. It was like a two hour flight from San Francisco, like a five hour flight if that's possible. Right.

And and I remember that I was smart enough to make my section multiple choice.

So I was done marking my section in a matter of hours but there was, I forget who it was, one of the other GC managers had made theirs basically like an essay or multiple essay questions.

They were stuck all there. I think they literally pulled an all nighter to get it all marked, but, yeah, that was, that that was, the big thing at Akmai. Yes. I don't I don't think this'll do it or not.

But I guess, I I don't know. I don't know either. But I guess the underlying point is even if you're not, I wouldn't say master anymore, but even if you don't have, complete familiarity with the material, if you put your head into it and start banging your head against it. Like, when I mean, what you're doing right now, there was a that was how Doug Jim did it by learning and I did it by learning.

And then Jim taught Jim Cowie at Renesys taught Doug and answered his questions. And, I remember you certainly the attention of the network group and other people who, you know, were supporting. That's been the great part is is having those folks around me that can help. You know, I know that I I can't do it myself.

And I've never claimed to.

But but building that that group of that that that support team who has access to the data, who has the ability to write those big hairy queries.

And they can explain to you, okay, here's why this here here's why what you think you're looking for is not what you're looking for, and we should approach it this other way.

So helping me, you know, helping me think that way. And I think maybe even more importantly, treating me as an equal, I think that is one of the things I found, at both BBN and Akamai was that there were people there who were infinitely smarter than me Yes. But we're willing to have that conversation with me as an equal. I think for me, that's that's one of those really important things.

I I laugh, not because I think that everyone's infinitely smarter, but or just more accomplished. Like, you look at people that have done such foundational things, you know, like, I could never do that. The truth is you probably could if that's what you really wanted to do, but take time. You have to focus on that.

Yeah. Yeah. No. Generally, I would say, all I know is people that work at BBN, and I was only there a couple times, but Erin Block, who went to Akamai told a story about challenging John Curran who now runs Aaron, you know, and not letting him in the knock because he didn't have his badge and was dressed in jeans and whatever.

And he thought he was gonna get fired, you know, because the oh, no. I've I've challenged the CTO of the company and John Zuckett. That's Hey, man. That's what the rules say.

The rules say. I can't do the Boston accent, but, you know, it was, like, hey, man. That's what you're supposed to do. So So, you know, you mentioned collaboration outside the company.

You know, I've seen this in networking overall where there's often cooperation.

It sounds like you've had an okay time of even people where in some sense you could be competing for the scoop or, you know, or or or just generally competing, collaborating with, is that because, there's something different or because everyone has their different take on it? Like, what would you I'd say yes. You know, yeah, yes to both of those where, I think different organizations, or companies are often collecting you know, different different datasets. They may be similar in nature, but but, you know, slightly different.

And I think the Yeah. Yeah. Maybe we're all competing in some sense, but we also all wanna get it right if we're gonna put something out there. So one of the challenges is often, when you see something particularly anomalous in your in your in your graphs, knowing, is that a thing, or is that, you know, a database?

Burp. Yeah. There's bugs. You know, did did something get rid into the database twice for some reason or or not at all for some reason?

And and figuring out, okay, you know, okay. We saw this. You know, in in in my company, and and this other, you know, contact and this other company saw it another way.

So I think that's, you know, we, and we all wanna do the right thing. I think it's it's it's, you know, yes, we all wanna be first to post about it.

But I think we also all want to, be confident what we're posting because the the the delicate balance of of of speed versus accuracy.

Yeah. Yeah. No. That makes that that definitely makes sense.

So I guess you'd almost have maybe that would be a fun combo blog post for for, you and Doug and, like, the the the set of things that could be the noise which might make you their signal from, as you said, double double writing to not writing to, you know, the early keynote stuff where agents would would, you know, doss themselves and, you know, you'd be trying to debug it and it turns out it was just an agent that scheduled everything to run at the same time to, to bugs in the software to, you know, to do the telemetry to, I don't know, any other fun categories of, of, of missed anomalies?

I don't know. I think I mean, I think that the the challenge I think one of the big challenges right now continues to be geolocation So as when you find those anomalies, you know, figuring out, you know, where where they really occur you know, yes, they occurred on the internet for in a network somewhere, but trying to tie that back to the real world. Any geolocation that updates once a day is always wrong. You know, well, it's it's generally not it's generally fuzzy anyways.

Right. Right. You're only gonna get so good. But the level of granularity that I think we tend to want is really not available at that in that in that technology space.

Yeah. Not unless you're in your Tesla, you know, or IoT or, you know, other things where and even then, it could be proxy through, but then again, there's latency techniques to, you know, to help see that. So Yeah. It's always been a really foundational piece of of what so many of us are doing.

And and I think it's one of those parts of the industry where there hasn't been enough innovation, there hasn't been, a lot of, lot of light shine on it. And we have this as a product to challenge at KENTIC two. Yep. Where if you're not careful, you know, you can see something that's data, and it is an answer to the question that you asked, but it but the question you asked may not be the question you think you were asking, because computers, of course, are very literal, in what they do.

So You gotta you gotta really think about that accurately, and, and before you draw conclusions. But then Then you also have to take this, what's going on in the digital world and try to turn it into what's going on in physical world where the infrastructure may not be what you think it is. And, as it sounds like there's also research not into the unique data set that you might have and not just collaborating or or or corroborating with others, things that are seen, but KB hard to track down sort of what's the digital footprint of something that you think is happening online? That yeah.

That's that is a big issue, and it's because you it's easy to see the change in the graph.

But to your point, it's it's much harder. In many cases, I should say, it's much harder to tie it back to what's what ultimately caused that change in the graph. You know, in some cases, we know, that it's it's, you know, election time in a got a history of messing with the internet, or that there was a big storm, you know, a big typhoon in this country. And, or or, you know, well publicized power outages somewhere.

Right. And, you know, so you can oftentimes say, okay, we know this is typhoon that just, you know, made land in in in this this country. Oh, look, you know, internet traffic or or the route. Recently toner.

Right. You know? Exactly. Yep.

But but even that, it was, you know, I'm trying to remember which came first. Like, they recognition that the internet had fallen off or the fact that people saw the volcano erupt. But, yeah, so in in in those large scale cases, It it is often a fairly short path between, you know, changing graph and and identification of real world event.

I think it's in the smaller cases, the more localized cases where we're seeing something that occurs on a particular network. Or receiving something in a state or a city.

And that's where you really I think I have to go sleuthing and and trying to find, you know, news articles or social media or things like that. When I was after Oracle when I was doing, the internet disruption report blog, I would I would try to track down a lot of those those sorts of, outages instructions I saw. Localized regional.

Yeah. And and the challenge was that I'd see, you know, using various tools. I see, oh, the the traffic dropped on, this particular network. And so I can go try to find out, you know, what happened.

I say, oh, good. You know, AviNet has a a Facebook page. I look at the Facebook page and say, but they haven't posted since two thousand seven. Yeah.

So it was, like, it was and they, you know, they're they have they have the Twitter count, but it's never been used. Right? You know, it it's just one of those things where some some of the providers are really good about posting status updates for about replying to inquiries you know, there are a bunch of times I had to explain. No.

Actually, I don't live in Tonga. I'm I'm living outside the country and trying to understand what caused this problem when your network that I observed but, you know, that's you can't always find the the the root cause or or some some semblance of root cause. Yeah. No.

Yeah. It's interesting though that it's a hybrid. So, needing to do go beyond, you know, just the the data that we see from internet senses and fumes sometimes to figure out what what the root cause is. And even just, especially something you mentioned and something that you know, comes up a lot in anomaly detection.

The something isn't there that usually is. What does that mean that can be? Again, even even, like, if the Beltway in DC is not busy on a Monday morning and it's not a holiday, then that's probably really bad.

Unless it's COVID, in which case, you know, I guess we have just Yes. Yeah. And especially when we're analyzing traffic shifts for for things like outages and disruptions, it's it's understanding how do you tell when something is not like it's supposed to be.

And and, you know, figuring out, do you compare it to just that time to past day or what Mondays are usually like or, you know, and then and there's all the accounting open. It's, but it's, you know, x y z, Monday. It's a holiday. So that's why it's down.

Right. You know, the alerts are still triggering anyway because traffic's not where it's supposed to be. Yeah. That's, I mean, that's a hard problem.

Mhmm. Yeah. A lot of a lot of operational products have to work in seasonality and things like that. And to some extent, You can use humans a little bit, you know, to help with that too.

You have data. You can analyze it.

Making sure that the data actually, is complete and and you're asking the right questions. Try to correlate it you have maybe you corroborate it with other other people doing data analysis, and then you have to explain it. Right. And one of the issues I always have is I I always need to have this little little obvious saying, no.

No. Give the idea of the answer. Don't don't lecture about, like, every little thing, but, you know, no one cares about the this BGP thing, and it wasn't fascinating about how meds work and, like, you know, you have to tell a story and, any How do you how do you go about that? What, you know, you think something has happened.

You have these reasons to believe it technically and and how it correlates.

Then you have to up level that and and explain it and or as as we say inside can't take the so what. But, yeah, they need to understand it and then put that into context. So how do you how do you go about that? Yeah. I mean, that's the so much important.

Because throwing up a page with pilot graphs is interesting to some set of people, but if you really wanna get somebody to understand what's happening or, or more importantly, why it's happening.

That's what you need to get to.

And there's a I think you need to be careful you need to be careful around not going too far into the weeds like you, like you just said. It really I think really depends on what what you're trying to show. You know, sometimes you can, you know, set up a thesis and and, you know, show the chart of the graph. Explain what it shows, and then talk about the impact of it. So I think that's one of the things that that oftentimes we maybe do a mixed job of doing, you know, among among the community of folks who who follow the, Internet outages and shutdowns is, you know, yes, this happened here, but what was the impact? What did it mean that that, you know, all these folks were cut off from the internet for an hour or for a month or for, you know, whatever it is.

I think Dodd's bringing it into the personal bring it into the personal, I think helps provide that context for it. I know early COVID poor performance, labanwath, means you can't Right. Work and have kids get educated and that's a problem. Right?

Yep. And that was a big. Yeah. I mean, that was a big thing and and, you know, I think many of us, you know, are in a position where we don't think about that.

We've got our, you know, multi hundred megabit connection from, you know, our our local cable or or, you know, telecom provider. And phone back up, two phones back ups. I've got Sprint and Verizon, and, you know, I can talk. And, you know, you're way more advanced than I am, but, you know, but there's, again, there's still you're taking their laptops and sitting outside a McDonald's or a library or something like that.

We don't we don't always think about that, but, you know, those are the stories where, like, that's the kind of stuff where where data can help tell that story and say, hey, you know, connection speeds in this geography are not to the point where they need to be to be able, you know, both both upload and download, to enable, you know, Zoom learning or or Google Meet learning or or, you know, zooms or or meets for for work or whatever. Mhmm.

So in your career, I also guessed recently and, you know, over time, have you dealt much with, press and analysts, or is it more marketing?

So so any tips for building relationships and making it more natural and not, you know, not I have this thing, which, I want you to promote my company for me. Yeah. No. I think it's it's I think the important thing there in building those relationships is is demonstrating expertise.

So so not only personally, because that's what gets them coming back, but also for the company or the organization that you represent.

You know, these may be no brainers, but it's it's the kind of thing where, You know, if you've shown that, hey, we as this organization have this kind of insight, you know, in cloudflare, we have this sort of insight into what's happening on the internet.

And I can represent that in a way that you can understand, and that you can then, explain to, you know, use this context or explain to your readers, or your audience I think that's the way you build the relationships and you you get them coming back that way.

I think part of the challenge there though is is instantiating those relationships. So, obviously, that's what with PR teams, are are there to support, but I think having a, an active, and intelligent social presence, as well.

It it really helps, Sarah, because, you know, I think a lot of times, the journalists will say, hey, this this person's been out there tweeting or or lengthening on, you know, particular topic. And, I'm gonna reach out to them to see if they can provide some data or commentary on this internet event that just happened.

So does it mean you could once you choose your profession that you're in, you can never change your cell phone number?

Isn't that what Google Voice is for? I guess. It's the cell phone number forever. That's why I have four Google voice numbers from different numbers that I thought I would never change. So, you know, Now I've had mine since, this particular one I've had since the early Akamai days.

That's why I know those spam calls because the the the the the the call will come in from the Yes. Six one seven. Pre fax to six one seven. And I'm like, it's it's unlikely to be any of the three people I know that probably still and really lock my cell phone.

So I'm just gonna, like, go to voice mail. So surprising they don't give you the option to block the NPA Nxx or send it, you know, that that your phone is in but I'd love to do that, especially my home phone, which I look at, you know, nine nine minutes of the call together. Once again, what did you say? What kind of phone?

Do you have?

You need the cell phone on your desk at home. Is that what you're talking about? The cordless phone sitting in my kitchen.

The nine eleven, anchors. It come it comes with Fios. Yeah. Right.

Yeah. I guess I I technically have a Comcast phone that It's it's the number I spoke about. It may I don't really want spam calls on my cell phone. So I just you know, for for from if if you if you don't really need my my phone number, I'm giving you my home phone number.

Oh, wow. Okay. That's just easier to ignore. Okay. I just, you know, get a get a Google voice and you get the the hilarious transcripts.

There must be like, there's the people of Walmart. There must be, like, a hilarious transcripts, from the voicemail transcripts website somewhere. I need to I need to take a look at that. If not, it's an opportunity.

Yeah. So, another thing that I've done that I think has been helpful over time is if if I'm talking to someone, from whether it's press or maybe an industry analyst and and we're not the source point them to someone that might be. In fact, that's not how Doug got hired at at Kentech, but he was at Oracle and someone wanted data. Well, it was COVID was going on.

People wanted data about the traffic side they weren't seeing and, you know, pointed it over. And ultimately, it helps it helps build a relationship where, you know, you're not always trying to trip them out. You just, like, Hey, I can introduce you to someone who actually really knows that I I think I know, but I don't really, you know, whether it's an expert or someone with data. Could be really helpful too.

Absolutely. No. It's actually a great point too is is, knowing what you don't know and and knowing who probably knows it. And I think it's also to that to that point.

It's it's a great way to build the relationships with not only the press from the analyst community, but those those back end folks. Yeah. You know, referring between organizations.

Yeah. Yeah. Definitely.

It's tough in what we do. And I talk with Doug about this also because sometimes the things that make the best stories, we're not hoping that they will happen. We're not hoping it will be more or hoping for COVID. We're not hoping for internet shutoffs.

I don't even know what adjectives to use to describe some of the stuff that's going on today, but with that as backdrop, I will ask what's the favorite story, you know, that you've worked on helped with It was actually not a, Not a trauma. Okay. No. No.

You had no. It was it was not an internet story. A call had come in to to Ocma PR. They said, they're they're looking for somebody to talk about, submarine cables.

And, so, you know, the PRD team turned to me and said, hey, can you can you talk to them about this? I think it was I once think it was for the Atlantic, I don't remember offhand.

But I said, yeah, you know, I'll I'll I'll talk to them. I should be able to answer the questions. And so we were talking about, you know, serving cables and how they work, and and we I was talking about, you know, how they're protected, from from damage. You know, you know, talking about how, you know, sometimes the the the shaft where they come ashore, you know, sometimes your, you know, data centers with a little bit of garbage on, and the cables themselves have, you know, multiple layers of, of, she thing and and so on.

I said, but there are there are no sharks or lasers down there or anything like that. And I just it was an offhanded comment. I didn't realize that I was was channeling Austin powers, until after the fact. And then the article got published, I think, the next day or the next week or whatever it was.

And the headline was something affected, like, no sharks with lasers.

I'm like, oh my god. Like, I can't believe they did that. And the PR team is never gonna let me talk to a reporter again.

But luckily, the acma My PR team had a good sense of humor, and it was like, yep. Cool. No problem.

Well, At Kentech, it's funny. You mentioned the Atlantic because I, again, with with when COVID was going on, I talked with Charles Fishman, And I I really like the narrative, the people that tell stories. Mhmm. You know, the news is important.

But it's really fun to read someone's take when they're really weaving it into a story. And, let's make it more personal. It was entertaining when, you know, I I work with some of that in the nineties, but then during COVID, I I this article starts almost starts with a quote from me. It's like, oh my god, says Avigfriedman, which is not I don't talk like that, but he he, what was it?

He said, so so it's, oh my god. It would be all over. You know, it says see. Oh, I do.

I remember that article. About, you know, it's like, what if the internet died? It's like, I don't even remember saying that, but I'm sure it's true, but it's not that we go around Alarmus, but, you know, that there's I don't you know, you can ask questions and then get responses and that's, you know, it's interesting. So I guess that's that's up there, with, some of the telecom stuff that I was in where, you know.

I think that It was it was a while ago. I was I I I probably said it, but it was taken out of context when I said that, Bob Metcalfe was an elder statesman doing more harm than good. What that was when he was said the internet was gonna go or, like, be destroyed. Well, right.

At that at that point, time. And then he called me a brass young brat wet behind my ISP brat wet behind my packets. And I was like, okay, whatever. But I wasn't trying to pick a fight.

It was just George Gilder just thought that he he took this thing which was about, you know, I just thought it was bullshit. I thought, you know, BGP had all these problems and can skip the Oh, it was click clickbait for or whatever clickbait. It wasn't like top ten things. Top ten things that will kill the internet, but it was still but I'll maybe I'll have to see if I can get sharks with lasers in there somewhere.

So or submarines with wire cutters or remember Doug humphrey. More likely these days. Description of, you know, of of birds as, you know, two year olds of wire cutters, you know, super smart, you know, go here around and cutting things. So What's the most?

Do you have any favorite, question you've been asked or, you know? I think probably what I was doing state of the internet and doing the, the interviews for that.

We talked to, we each quarter, we come out with, hey, here are the new rankings. You're just fastest. And a lot of times, press would ask, reporters would ask, you know, hey, the US invented the internet. How come we're not the fastest.

And it was this interesting, like, okay. Let me explain capitalism to you and why the big telecom providers are not going to invest in bringing fiber everywhere.

You know, if they don't have a clear ROI for it. Yeah. You know, it's I mean, it was, you know, as opposed to other countries where the government has said. Yeah.

I I would say if the government sides, it's important and they sub then they supplement. Yeah. Yeah. If there's a mandate or or or or support, you know, in in other countries, the government has said, thou shall you know, bring speeds, connections with speeds of x to every, you know, house, or apartment or whatever.

And oh, by the way, you know, here's money to help do it. In some of these cases, the the telecom there also spun out of the government. You know, they used to be the state backed telco and then they became independent. We're gonna help you do it.

Some some take it from a view of a human right and some view it as a strategic you know, they just make a strategic bet economically.

So, you know, Europe a little bit more human right historically, Asia, a little bit more economic, but that's not simply that's not clear cut through either, you know, and often it's for both. Right. And and especially the the US here with the the the geographic challenges also just speed connectivity.

I I was in Brazil for fourteen hours once when I was at Akamai and, and, Ruth Crest that I come down and talk with Embvertel, and we got the result that we wanted bandwidth wise, but, you know, getting into the wilds of Brazil with radio into the tow into the, you know, is even more challenging. Yeah. You're not gonna be able to run fiber everywhere. Yeah. In the US, you know, there wherever you're going, basically, eventually, there would have been fibro. Maybe that wasn't clear in nineteen ninety six, but, you know, would eventually be needed are there any questions that you I won't say hate, but, are not as much a fan of that you get a lot?

Not really. I mean, I think that they're all, you know, they're all asked, with with good intention. Right. You know?

Foundation, maybe I don't know who's with the answers to them. Yeah. Yeah. No. That makes sense.

As you do the analysis, I'm curious because, Cloudflare's done some really cool stuff, with the learning center, we've been doing a lot of work in in in that regards to at Kentech. I've been I've been super impressed with with that. You could take a look at it. You know, you can learn about BGP and DDoS and all sorts of things.

And then also radar, which I think predated when you joined, but you know, it's interesting. And of course, Sodexis has done some stuff and, you know, other people have done things, but, Clover has done a pretty good job of making it interactive. Any grand plans or or or vision, for, your work will work with that? Yeah.

So that's that's one of the the parts of my role is to help help evolve radar.

I was I think with the internet society when they launched it and, you know, saw it was like, oh my god. This is what I've always wanted to launch. You know, something which just brings together, a whole lot of of insight about, you know, various bits and pieces of of the internet. So I think what we're we're working on, thinking about the, you know, what what does the future of error look like you know, what additional, content and data sets can we incorporate into it, you know, thinking about, cycle times, you know, what needs to be real time ish, what can be updated, you know, daily or weekly or, you know, whatever the case may be.

You know, and of course, there's all the the, you know, figure then then once you kinda think about all that, thinking about the the the the the the core data analysis piece. Okay. We wanna do all this, but, you know, you have the data, at, you know, at this sampling level. And then, you wanna look at it and all these are ways. There's all this cardinality to it. You know, we don't wanna build something that's gonna make the, you know, the underlying systems explode.

So so thinking about that, and then thinking about also not only the the radar, tool itself, but I'm also working on, you know, plans for, regular reports. So how do we take, like, for instance, they've got the quarterly DDoS report a cloud player. How do we take that and then build that out for other similar areas? And then are there other sort of longer form ten pieces that we can put together that are that are data driven.


Stay tuned, I guess, is the ultimate answer. We'll see if, we can convince the Cloudler marketing department to link to the resources we're building there. But, again, complimentary, but, it's very cool what you all have done. Look forward to it.

We're thinking about tools and looking glasses and all that. But I think you've probably had to deal with some of these issues again maybe before you started. There's also a limit to how much you can show because we have we all have a duty to protect, confidentiality and PII, you know, customer data. So Yeah.

Absolutely. I mean, I mean, in doing it all with, yeah, we're, you're always doing all of this with aggregate data. Yeah.

Yes. Please never say anonymized because you can't really anonymize, obfuscated aggregate. Those are all things you can do. And then ultimately, you know, when I talk with academics, I'm just like, look, state of the art is, you eyeball it and a human makes an opinion about, you know, could someone reasonably You joked about Avinet, but, yeah, I mean, I have multi home networks. And you could if someone has one prefix, and it's a BGP thing on the internet, Yep. And you have any source of major CDN or network, you could tell whether they're home or not if you want to rob them or do something else.


This at some level, you can't, but it's pretty broad understanding that IP addresses and things are our PII and, you know, even even even in many ways aggregates. So, any anything you would love to see the internet data and analysis and storytelling community, due this year, you know, near future that we haven't been.

I mean, I'd like to get back to seeing people again, getting out of my house.

You know, I think that there's there's some definitely some good conferences, that go on around that, like Internet measurement conference.

So that one is, I think, arguably more academic. But, you know, bring trying to maybe maybe trying to bring together. I've done this once at Akma.

I tried to bring together a, an inside baseball internet measurement, with with Doug and some of the Renaissance folks and some of the Maxline folks because they were local.

I did that once. Well, I need to do the DNS inside baseball. Right. Okay. I think Kyle and Kyle helped support, the the effort that I did.

But I think, you know, maybe maybe something where it's it's folks who are not quite so academic.

You know, figuring out how we can do a better job across the industry of of, you know, sharing insights and sharing, potentially sharing data. You know, if that's a practical thing, you know, love to to, you know, maybe see the industry come together, and this is, you know, probably an uphill battle, but, like, is maybe maybe some common data formats, you know, to to be able to say so so that there's some trusted third party and interested society like party where everybody could say, here's our data about x y z. And it's, you know, so so they can aggregate it from Kintech and from cloudflare and from Akamai and from whoever else has those sorts of measurements, and provide a more comprehensive view of of what's going on. Well, I have been involved in the recent Katie conferences and Yep.

Yeah. It's it's tough. It's a tough problem.

The thing I've been pushing on that I really would love to see is, subject to being able to do so in privacy respecting ways, have some understanding of relative importance of IP address ranges, prefixes, because often people look at, you know, BGP is the thing which everyone can look at, but they assume that every prefix is created equal, or as you were saying per capita, traffic per IP address, or whatever. Right.

And, you know, where we might start is, there are some algorithms that let you take some traffic on a part of a network plus the topology and sort of deduce and maybe again with customer by end, we could validate some of those models. And then that helps people, you know, use that. Maybe we could, you know, validate that, you know, with, Kentic customer by end.

And then that for other, you know, for other purposes or but, you know, it's a tricky problem. And then reproducibility or the word longitudinal, which means, you know, sort of over time, you know, also.

Is something that that the academic folks are are are working on, but, you know, keep all the data for paper now. If Kentech does something where the result is privacy respecting, but the data underneath might not be then, again, that becomes a challenge. But Let's just say trace route data not involving any private agents. So I get some VPSs, and I'm just trace routing from linode now Akamai to two digit lotion and, IBM to name through, you know, a freeze that I like.

You know, that's not there's no issue there. That data could be, you know, that data could be archived. And ripe does that with their data and, you know, those have been being actively looked at too. Now the scope of the data is pretty large, but then again cloud lets you do, you know, if you have money, do stuff with pretty large data pretty fast. So Right.

Any wish list for internet infrastructure, you know, or or industry folks, not the data sharing side. You know, over the next year?

I don't know. Let's see.

I think that, hopefully, you know, government stop shutting down the internet.

I'd love to I I'd love to not have to focus on that. And and, you know, makes good stories, but that's not how we wanna get good stories. Yes. Yes. Absolutely. I mean, as far as the infrastructure side, you know, looking forward to the results of you know, the efforts in the US to help fund, improve our bend deployment.

You know, I'd like to be able to get back to doing another connection speed, connection quality focused report. So, you know, just to see ultimately the, the impact of those investments That'd be great. I am, we're thinking about what we can do at Kentic to, help people along the RPKI journey. If you're a customer, we have a little workflow about it.

Like, see, you know, this is what will drop if you turn on validation of different, you know, by different types. But how could we could even do that in an open way? We have some open source stuff that actually does traffic analysis and could plug in, and and help people with that. And then I'd love to see us get to path validation.

You know, I'm glad we started, and it's, you know, we have customers that are working, in fact, transit some of the big wholesale networks that are customers that, you know, that, are are focusing on BCP thirty eight, you know, Ford source address violation, which which isn't the primary problem, but it is is used is used in DDoS is used, you know, volumetrically, and or just people that have open reflectors Sometimes we get put in an awkward position where someone's like, hey, Kete, can you tell your other customer, you know, if they're bad and you need to do this, but You know, there's ways we can do it and say, look, we have these dashboards and we have to notice this, but then, you know, there's only so pushing we can be.

But, right, at the same time, It's a little embarrassing as an infrastructure person that we've noted. We've had these issues with the infrastructure for We've known about them well for twenty years. We've had them for forever, you know, for twenty years. But, you know, was originally the design was.

I could telnet to a mail server and mail and send mail to you from god. And that was, like, but it wasn't asking.

But, you know, as the internet becomes more production ready, it's, it's time that we dealt with these things. So I will admit to having done something like that. A few times probably. That was how we I mean, you know, the use it still is too much of a guild system, which I've talked about with other guests that we weren't getting into, but The way I was forced to reverse engineer that was I got email from god.

I was like, how did that happen? Wait a minute. I don't think, I don't think I went to Schuh, last week. So, and, and, And then I was like, wait.

Let me look at the protocol. Let me I mean, that used to be the way that, people did it. And so it's nice that we have much more education, some of the books, behind me, that you can actually they've been looking at them trying to figure which ones I have. I I think I have a couple of them, but not not a lot of them.

Have a Telva trailblazer modem that was, I didn't use VINet. I was using UCP. So you got to I I I don't, unfortunately. I have I do have so I do have my my bin of early internet ephemera.

I feel like my my my netscape, transistor radio, and, somewhere on the orgong software, TCP IP software, and buttons, you know? I have my my collection of of, you know, eight eight floppy disk to install Compuserve and, you know, although I started making little boxes out of those. Yeah, I have a lot of that kind of stuff that I really revolution. I also have a computer.

No. No. No. No. Send this to me. I'll I'll I'll buy it. I I I think you stole my vet tracks, actually.

I do. Yes.

It doesn't work, but you have it. Yes. I I do have a complete set of of wired magazines, actually, as well.

They've gotten thinner and thinner and thinner over the years. This is makes me sad, but I think next year is thirty years for them. So I I have this this grand vision of somehow finding in a free time each month to go through. Oh, yeah.

That'd be cool. You know, that month's historical, issue And I don't know if it's look at the articles, or for me, it's probably less the articles, more of the ads. Yes. And and just look at, you know, what companies are not around anymore?

What's happening to these companies? You know, even even during the conversation today, you're referencing so many companies that just don't exist anymore.

I have news for you. I wanna do that with bite magazine, which I have multiple complete collections of. And I bet you could do the same thing with bite where talking about networking and risk computing and AI and all this stuff. And you could not the companies, but more the ideas.

And you could say we're still Well, you were you were either in or on the cover of wired. Right? Yeah. So that was funny for for sealand, you know, where we're doing, Haven Cove.


So I went in an airport where I saw that. And I was like, wait a minute. I know him. Well, Gail was too, to be fair. So and and so I visited one of my VCs, partners and loaned him an MSA, which I think he still has, or I forget it was an AllTair. No. It was an AllTair, not an MSI.

He saw my storage area, which Gail calls Amos off his museum of shit. And, along one wall, we're unopened boxes.

And, you know, Gail's attitude is what kind of more on buy the box and buy something that doesn't open it. And, but this this VC, he got me. He was like, That's so awesome.

You have, like, an infinite supply of Christmas presents. It's, like, things you know you will love because you bought them for yourself that you can open and You know, so I was like, when you open them, they'll tell you. But when I went to his office, he had the complete set of wire, and I was, like, walking over into the two thousand. He's, like, I get people to do that, you know, the, you know, because he has people, you know, he knows people that have been around for a while.

So, we'll get Kentic on there. We we've been in wired from Dugg's work, but we'll we'll get kind of, you know, hopefully it could be Doug. It doesn't need to be me, you know, on the cover. So, we'll get that.

But if you before before you consider throwing them out, you know, let me know. It's like I have a Yeah. No. I I I will probably keep them.

Of every sun workstation. To the forty five hundred. Every sun, including a sun too, up to the forty five hundred, but not the e ten k, in in Virginia.

That someone donated to me because his wife was like it's like, I'll pay the storage now. I'll pay the storage. Yes.

So so, last quest well, second for last question. Any advice you would give, your younger self, whether it's, entering VPN or in college, or Probably, I think probably two things. I think one would have been useful for college and and beyond, which is, to get my hands dirty. Yeah, I think a lot of the folks that I've interacted with in the industry have had the opportunity to manage a network.

Like you've said on past episodes, you know, talking about breaking things, Yeah. Breaking the internet. I never I've never gone to that point of of, you know, really, you know, configuring a network or doing something with routing. You know, I've got a CS degree, but I've not really kept with my my my ability to code.

You know, I definitely, which had done a better job there over the years.

I think the second piece, you know, probably professionally is is wish I had found a mentor earlier on.

And and really, you know, has somebody who could help me, you know, figure out what I was doing help guide me, you know, into maybe new areas.

And, you know, help me help introduce me to the right folks. I think I've done a great job in building a I think, you know, the places I've been have been fantastic for that. But but somebody, you know, with a little bit more, experience and and knowledge helping kind of push me in a given direction, I think, would have certainly been useful as well. It can be difficult because when you're earlier in career, you sort of think of, you know, you're learning the environment. You need to ask permission.

Yeah. And then hopefully, you're in a company, which is a separate topic, how to interview to make sure you're in a company where people are approachable and, like, the, like, what you experience at BBN Acima. And to show, you know, interest. It's not you don't have to be, I know Cloudfire used to use the term ninja, don't really like, you know, the ten x and engine wizard, but, you know, you don't have to be the most super wizard who created the universe.

If you're curious and and learning people generally in the in the field wanna help you. But people often come from an environment where, you know, where it's more hierarchy goal, whether it's family, cultural, whatever. So, separate topic. How do we how do we, you know, encourage that something I talked about on the last podcast with with someone.

So Yeah. And and and I don't I don't have a, you know, a complex home network. I don't have a rack in the basement, you know, where I need to set up, you know, separate subnets or whatever. It's like, So I just have my I just, you know, whatever the stock, you know, Fios install is.

Yeah. And, so I'm not even like I I'm not even trying to get my hands dirty with doing something weird with that. Well, but it could be learning about about anything. And sometimes the people Well, yes, the other thing is you let your nerd passion fly about different topics.

It's a way of connecting. It doesn't have to be the thing that someone is most you know, most, most connected about. I remember, I don't know, ten or probably fifteen years ago at Nanogg.

I was watching, one of the great ones, Steve Bellovan, you know, the original Hezwick and Bill over the firewall book and Bell Labs, and he was I was, like, hovering as one does. He was talking about something, suitably nerdy to some other people. And then he turned to me. He's like, so Avi, my my son thinks that I'm not enough of a nerd because of you. And I was like, oh, okay. I didn't know who I was. I didn't know who knew I was.

You know, I guess maybe he saw it in. I presentation or something, and then I didn't I was like, what what are you talking about? He saw me play his son saw or no. They did playing poker on ESPN, you know, for the world series, and you know, it was like, hey, Geeks can do that.

And and I guess Steven said, he said, he's a nerd. You know, he does internet stuff. And and so you know, I mean, there's many things you can, you know, connect about, talk about. So Absolutely.

Yeah. I mean, I think, and I I often describe myself as sort of a mile wide and so I think that helps me, you know, I know enough to be dangerous in many cases. And, but that does help me have the conversations with a variety of Yeah. Different people across the industry.

Yeah. Absolutely.

So how can people find you if they, have something they're curious about, have a tip.

First we're gonna find me probably is, d belson, d b e l s o n on Twitter. Okay. Or I have my my my website, which, you know, collecting links to what I've written and stuff, that's d delson dot com.

So that's probably the best two ways to, to find me out there.

Okay. Cool.

And I'm, Avi Friedman on Twitter and LinkedIn and Avi at kintech dot com, and Thanks all for listening to Network AF podcast, if you like it.

Please subscribe and tell others, and David, thanks for, thanks for joining. Thank you for having me.

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About Network AF

Network AF is a journey of super-nerd proportions into the world of networking, cloud, and the internet. Avi Freedman, self-described internet plumber and podcast namesake, hosts top network engineering experts from around the world for in-depth, honest, and freewheeling banter on all-things-network — how-tos, best practices, biggest mistakes, war stories, hot takes, rants, and more.
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