Internet operations is a network engineering discipline well understood among its practitioners, although not necessarily in the wider world of computing. It emphatically is a challenging professional area; "operator" refers to the technical management of large, multi-user networks based on Internet Protocol (IP) routing, not operators of individual computers.
Perhaps the largest internet operations group is the North American Network Operators Group (NANOG), an informal organization where the operators of Internet Service Providers, academics, telecommunications service providers, vendors, large enterprises, and application service providers exchange technical information. The organization evolved from the NSFNET "Regional-Techs" meetings, where technical staff from the regional networks met to discuss operational issues of common concern with the Merit engineering staff. At the February 1994 regional techs meeting in San Diego, the group revised its charter to include a broader base of network service providers, and subsequently adopted NANOG as its new name. In spite of its name, it has participants from all over the world. Equivalent organizations, however, exist on a continental and sometimes regional basis.
While other groups, such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) designs complex internetworking mechanisms such as the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), it is at NANOG, and other regional groups, where the service providers work out the equally complex operational techniques for the use of these mechanisms. The operational deployment of BGP is a key part of internet operations.
"The Internet", or the open public collection of networks, is clearly within the scope of Internet operations. In addition, however, the discipline includes large IP networks with restricted users, such as secure military and financial networks. It also includes networks using forwarding technologies at lower layers than routing, but enabled (e.g., in path setup) by routing, such as Multi-Protocol Label Switching and dynamic optical networks. Internet operations also is concerned with the use of high-bandwidth transmission media appropriate for such networks.
Applications associated with the infrastructure, such as Domain Name System, IP Address Management (IPAM) and network management are within scope, but not user-visible application services such as electronic mail and the World Wide Web, except when those applications impact security, stability and capacity planning of the routing infrastructure.