North American Network Operators' Group

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While the Internet Engineering Task Force develops the technical specifications for the networking protocols of the Internet, the North American Network Operators' Group (NANOG) and its regional counterparts work out the complex and cooperative operational techniques for Internet Service Providers and sophisticated users. It provides education, consensus building, and the critical personal relationships necessary to make the independently managed Autonomous Systems of the Internet work together, a task sometimes compared to herding cats.

Origins

NANOG was established as an operational forum for the NSFNET, successor to the ARPANET but still a research and academic network more restricted than today's Internet. NSFNET, which was built of a core and independent regional networks, began holding engineering meetings with the Merit staff, which had key operational roles for the core of the NSFNET. The National Science Foundation provided the original funding for NANOG to Merit, which, with NSF and other partners, ran the NSFNET Backbone Service and the Routing Arbiter project

At the February 1994 meeting, the participants revised the charter to include network service providers outside the pure NSFNET, and subsequently formalized its name as NANOG.

Activities

Day-to-day NANOG activities involve a very active mailing list. Meetings are held three times each year, in the U.S. and Canada. Merit Network, Inc., a non-profit Michigan organization, organizes the meetings and other logistics. As of 2005, the leadership transferred into a member-elected Steering Committee and Program Committee.

All NANOG funds now come from conference registration fees and donations from vendors. There is no cost to participate in the mailing list, which is highly technical, and, while cooperative, does not suffer fools gladly. It is wise, when first joining, to listen for a time and get a sense of the culture.