Situational Awareness in Telecom: Global IP Networks Then and Now

Roots of Sustainability

In 1988, I started working on a global IP network called AGNET for A. Ahlstrom Corporation. Although the company was primarily about pulp & paper, heavy machinery and packaging, it had long roots in being an early adopter of latest information technologies an communications. The initial core network consisted of factory sites with HP3000 minicomputers, which needed ERP connections towards the headquarters.

In a couple of years, we had 250 global sites connected with various technologies, ranging from 64Kbit/s international half-lines to X.25 and experimental Frame Relay, and later ATM and MPLS. Within countries we had occasional dark fibers too. The early network design was influenced by our relations with DARPA and Stanford University, so we standardized to TCP/IP although Europe was at that time still pushing for the alternative OSI IP and X.25 evolutionary protocols.

We were one of the earliest IP operators in Europe, even providing IP transit capacity to other companies and universities in different countries. We also implemented early routers from Hewlett-Packard (Wellfleet) and Cisco Systems, while contributing to the development of modern routing protocols like OSPF (and NLSP, yes, I also run IPX globally) via IETF. I was, and still am, passionate about network quality, fault tolerance and performance. The initial lack of situational awareness and tools significantly contributed to the ideas of establishing BaseN in 2001, as together with our current CTO Erik we had already developed an own network operations center for AGNET.

When joining KPNQwest in 1999, I was soon tasked with seamlessly bringing together an equivalent of 14 EUnet country operators, each one about the size of AGNET and using vastly different technologies. Situational awareness quickly became a top priority, as the goal was to offer end-to-end services across Europe. In 2000, we were mostly successful and carried approximately 50% of the global Internet traffic. I was also lucky to catch co-founder Kaj, our Chief Engineer, from KPNQwest.

This history has been ingrained into BaseN what comes to us being our own telecom operator and maintaining situational awareness in every contingency, be the customer a global construction systems supplier, ocean-going ship technology provider or a multinational telecom provider. Our overarching aim is, in addition to providing a state-of-the-art technology platform, to spread our sustainable and fault-tolerant ideology to our customers and their business models. Now during the COVID-19, we see a correlation with our longest-served customers being least affected by the pandemic.


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