Opinion: Our future is tied to infrastructure autonomy

New Zealand organisations remain highly susceptible to internet latency issues

A server in the United States begins undergoing routine maintenance on the first Sunday of the month at midnight. However, businesses in Wellington are still relying on this same server for DNS routing at 4pm Monday afternoon New Zealand time. The result is a brief, yet substantive outage.

New Zealand’s reliance on internet infrastructure goes beyond simple issues stemming from international time zones variances. Our organisations remain highly susceptible to internet latency issues and routing anomalies.

Although some funding in the new budget will help address internet infrastructure needs including an additional undersea cable, most will go to existing projects and not directly address this issue.

Calum MacLeod, strategy and architecture manager for IT Services at AUT University says, “When the telcos de-peered from the local internet peering exchanges we received complaints from both staff and students. One investigation found that the latency was noticeably higher to some ISPs.”

As a result, AUT was forced to implement a secondary connection.

“New Zealand is a relatively small consumer of internet traffic and our providers don’t have a lot of clout with the upstream providers, and we can find it difficult to get routing issues resolved quickly,” says MacLeod.

Several government initiatives have helped to reduce some of the reliance on such infrastructure. The Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network (KAREN) offers a high speed telecommunications network that connects research and education centres. It is an initiative of the REANNZ (Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand Ltd), a Crown-owned company.

The new budget sets aside additional funds for KAREN, which supplies effective connectivity at 10Gbit/s. Traffic receives priority routing and latency is minimised by keeping switching at the local level.

When it comes to internet routing issues, Dr Jeremiah Deng, information sciences lecturer, at the University of Otago, says that with KAREN universities and research institutes are safer.

Similarly, the Government Shared Network (GSN) uses secure fibre-optic cabling to provide connectivity among government agencies.

We can reduce dependence through better practices and increased R&D.

David McLachlan, knowledge solutions manager for the Wellington City Council, for instance, chooses to review alternative infrastructure options.

“DNS service is an issue that we are looking at minimising,” he says.

Developing foundation internet infrastructure can provide our business sector with the same improvements in reliability and performance that is being supported for education and government.

Rais is a Wellington based technical writer who formerly served as senior manager for Netscape and AOL

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