At UKNOF52, Denesh explained that UKNOF has some sustainability issues. He requested new ideas from the community for how we can continue UKNOF. He noted that “it’s brainstorming time.” The goal is to bring those ideas to the Annual Meeting in January 2024.
The Communications Committee drafted some thoughts about UKNOF’s purpose, earlier in 2023. We’re sharing these here. We hope these are a useful place to start a discussion about who UKNOF needs to serve, now the Internet is a mature industry and an essential service.
Your thoughts on the future are welcome on the futureuknof list. Information about the Annual Meeting will be posted there nearer the time.
Who is UKNOF for?
When UKNOF was founded there was a very different landscape in terms of core infrastructure and its users. The original objectives focused on peering networks and the people who built the UK’s network infrastructure. There were very few Internet exchange points (IXPs) and only a few large players connecting to them.
Since then, the world has changed, there are now more than 10 IXPs in the UK, the largest having nearly 1,000 members/connections the majority now being content/hosting providers in addition to the traditional infrastructure players.
The telecommunications arena has also changed with large amounts of consolidation with fixed network providers merging with mobile networks operators and offering converged services, this has also led to the growth of Altnets both in the fixed and wireless spaces. People just expect connectivity to work whether they are in a building, outside, in a stadium etc. Where fixed wireless access services required specialised equipment and the rise of the Wireless ISP, FWA is now a service provided by the MNOs using 4G and 5G and now private 5G for specialised services (smart cities, V2X communications etc).
The Internet of Things has exploded, with many connectivity solutions that can be public or private using many technology solutions. IoT devices now dominate (in numbers) connections and have a completely independent set of security and other issues.
Cloud services have also massively increased, again with a few major players, but minor players offering specialised services (such as GPU hosting for ML model training). More and more services are moving from on-premises or datacenter to cloud, including core network services. Cloud is also moving from completely public cloud to public and private cloud and now hybrid solutions where services run on private infrastructure and scale when needed on public clouds.
Connecting to an IXP is no longer about building the UK’s infrastructure, but just another connectivity solution that has become ‘just another service’ like plumbing and electricity.
Resilience to and mitigation of external threats has become a significant concern to organisations, along with compliance with government regulations regarding responsibility and liability and compliance..
Technology is nonetheless an important economic driver. Businesses require a wide range of technology services, but rather than developing them in-house, they just purchase commercial solutions from multiple suppliers, who deliver products and services that are standards compliant. The suppliers have product roadmaps describing what they’ll implement and when.
UKNOF attracts around 100 participants to its events which means the majority of IXP members are not attending. IXPs do run their own events, but this only partially explains the lack of attendance.
Should UKNOF continue to focus on the people who build the UK’s network infrastructure? While this group is important, its size is likely to grow smaller each year. Meanwhile, there is a growing group of people who need to source, buy, and integrate the more mature technologies delivered by the market and UKNOF should be addressing the wider market.