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Not just for ISPs

By Scott Bradner

I'll admit up front that I'm biased on this topic. The first book of the new Wiley Publishing Networking Council book series has just come out. I'm biased in four ways: I, along with Vint Cerf, Lyman Chapin and Ed Kozel, make up the Wiley Networking Council; the author, Geoff Huston, is a friend of mine; I recruited him to write the book; and if you go buy a copy I get some pittance.

The book is called "ISP Survival Guide: Strategies for Running a Competitive ISP" (ISBN 0-471-31499-4) and is primarily targeted at the technical and management people working at Internet service providers (ISPs). Geoff covers every facet of design, operation and management of ISPs. His insights come from managing an ISP for about 10 years and from teaching hundreds of students from around the world in the annual Internet Society Developing Countries Workshop.

The more I dealt with some of the ISPs currently in business the more that an overarching book of this type seemed like a good idea. Some wag once noted that there were only a few hundred people in the world who could actually run the technical side of an ISP, unfortunately there are over 7000 ISPs. All too often I've had to try and deal with some of the "other" ISPs, the ones without adequate clue. This book should help close the gap.

It is a testament to the design and implementation of the Internet transport and routing protocols that this motley collection of independently owned and operated networks we call the Internet seems to work most of the time. Not all the time, but most of the time. The IETF and other groups proposing new technologies for use in the Internet should keep the uneven clue distribution in mind when they design new protocols. But even with the best and most robust technology designs, some of the technology and particularly the business climate can be quite a challenge. Geoff's book can be quite helpful in these areas.

In spite of all of the above the sub title of the book might not be quite right since it focuses on running a "competitive ISP." Just looking at the technology used and the management skills required, it can be hard to distinguish many corporate networks from ISPs. In this case ISP could mean Internet service provider or intranet service provider. Even with this being the case relatively few intranet service providers have to compete with another intranet service provider within the same company to see which one can make the most money.

In spite (I hope, in spite) of my biases, I think this is a good book and will prove quite useful to all sorts of people at both Internet and intranet service providers. Anyway, my wallet hopes the book will prove to be as good in the eyes of others as in mine.

disclaimer: This column is mostly disclaimer and Harvard had nothing to do with it.