BCOP: Building a living library for network engineers by network engineers

By Jennifer Bly - Public Affairs Specialist, ARIN

Guest blog post by Chris Grundemann

On a cool but clear Dearborn evening in October of 2009, several members of the NANOG and ARIN community walked from our hotel to share a meal at a nearby restaurant. The large party was forced to split across two tables. The deciding factor of which table to sit at? Those who wished to talk shop at one and those who did not at the other. I chose shop talk, along with Igor Gashinsky, Aaron Hughes, Lee Howard, and Jason Schiller. As is typical of a dinner shared among friends and colleagues in this industry, conversation wandered as the meal, and the night, wore on. As is even more typical of this particular group of Internet experts and evangelists (not counting myself, the token newb), the conversation reliably returned to methods for improving the Internet.

On this bright night the topic de jour was creating an information repository, for engineers by engineers, to collect and distribute living documents containing best practices for designing, building and operating an IP network. The IETF BCP process was too slow and inflexible for this purpose and there were no other existing mechanisms that came as close to fitting the bill. So it became clear that if this were to materialize, it was up to us. Many napkin notes, email messages, shared meals, cigarette breaks, cocktail hours, BoFs and Tracks later; we have carved out a foundation for this library to be built upon.

http://www.ipbcop.org/ houses that foundation and is also the home of the grand library created in theory that fateful night and now being constructed in reality: BCOP – Best Current Operational Practices.

The premise is simple; virtually all network-engineering tasks have been performed and perfected by someone, but those practices also change over time as more experience is gained and new tools become available. This leads to two overarching goals:

1) Collect current information from active and experienced engineers. The best place to seek operational advice is from a network engineer who has learned from their mistakes and the mistakes of those who came before them. Someone who has done well what you now seek to do. Not everyone (especially new engineers, working on new networks) has access to an accomplished sage of network engineering however. Gathering the advice of these experts into a common pool gives everyone, all around the world, equal access to this previously very “tribal” knowledge. This open access to the very best current operational practices helps put more networks and more engineers on a more equal footing, creating a better Internet for all of us (less mistakes and less bad habits equals less hassles for everyone).

2) Maintain living documents, flexible to change over time. Technology changes. It’s changing faster every day. Network and Internet technology is no exception. In order for the advice gathered to stay relevant, it must stay current. The documents that contain these best current operational practices must be living; they must be open to new information, additional experience and changes in the underlying technologies. They must embrace flexibility or face eventual insignificance.

Now that a foundation embracing and upholding these goals has been built, it’s up to you to ensure the success of the BCOP library. How? Well, here are a few starters:

1) Use the existing BCOPs as references, for yourself, those who work with you, and elsewhere in your network. Link to them and tell other network engineers about them!

2) Join the BCOP mailing list and comment on the current draft BCOPs under development.

3) Create a new BCOP and work with the Global Network Engineering Community (GNEC) to complete it and have it ratified as an official BCOP!

All three of these tasks are of vital importance for the success of this new but crucial effort. Doing any one of these things ensures your place as an active member of the GNEC, and as an influencer on the future of network engineering. I also encourage you to follow BCOP on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Google+ and engage in the conversation there. Let’s grow this valuable resource together!


Chris Grundemann
Network Architect





Any views, positions, statements or opinions of a guest blog post are those of the author alone and do not represent those of ARIN. ARIN does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness or validity of any claims or statements made by a guest blog post. ARIN shall not be liable for any representations, omissions or errors contained in a guest blog post.

Jennifer Bly

Public Affairs Specialist, ARIN