DNS-OARC and COVID-19
OARC’s Continuity, Community and Mission in a time of global pandemic
Now seems an appropriate time to post an update on how the COVID-19 pandemic situation is impacting DNS-OARC, with some thoughts on how we can work with the DNS community over the coming months as we all deal with this unique situation.
The pandemic is not just a challenge to your businesses and fulfilling OARC’s mission, but also an opportunity to find new ways to make a difference to better operating and understanding the DNS. OARC is here to facilitate effective DNS infrastructure operations, which will be placed under unprecedented pressure as the Internet is called on to help hold society together through the coming months. We are also here to help measure and understand the DNS. What is likely to be a multi-year high-point of unique Internet traffic patterns presents a special opportunity to record and gain insights for posterity, both of the DNS, and how it interacts with society as a whole.
First of all, I want to reassure OARC Members and the wider DNS community that it’s mostly business as usual at DNS-OARC. All of our virtual team already normally work remotely, and are veterans of working from home, so well equipped to continue through the ongoing lock-downs. We’ve taken some additional measures to make sure everyone is okay, but you should expect normal levels of operations, development, and assistance from the OARC team.
At present, the OARC team has no travel to Internet industry events planned. It’s unlikely we will be attending any until at least the end of Q3, depending on how the situation plays out. We realize this misses the regular opportunities for face-to-face contact between our Members and our team — we will of course be in touch by other means, but please feel free to reach out to us via the various online channels and we’ll be happy to help.
OARC is also in a strong and stable fiscal position going into this, with recent much-appreciated upgrades from our Members, and our strongest cash reserves in OARC’s 15-year existence. We will use these carefully to weather the storm while upholding our mission. Please let us know if your organization is facing challenges with cash-flow or OARC Supporter requirements, and we’ll do our best to be flexible.
OARC’s Next Workshop
The area of OARC’s mission most impacted by the pandemic travel restrictions is of course our workshops. OARC33 in Paris during May was planned to be hosted by ICANN, and once as expected they decided to cancel their co-located GDD/IDS events, the OARC Board took the decision to also postpone OARC33. Everyone should have received notice of this, please cancel your hotel bookings here no later than Thursday 26th March to do so without penalty.
Our alternative plan for our next physical workshop is to hold this on the dates set for OARC34, co-located with RIPE81 in Milan in late September. This effectively postpones the event by ~5 months, and returns us to 2 rather than 3 workshops during 2020. As we were exceptionally planning both OARC33 and OARC34 to be in Europe, we are hopeful this change will not significantly impact our attendees or speakers.
The Board considered a number of contingencies for OARC33, including a virtual remote workshop. However, given that we had already had one 2020 workshop in February, the value to OARC Members of hallway conversations at workshops, the opportunity to focus on other key projects meantime, and that ICANN were not planning to run IDS remotely, it was decided the best option was to fully postpone OARC33.
A strong slate of 18 abstracts was submitted for OARC33 before everything went sideways. We’d very much like to see these talks presented, and the OARC Programme Committee will be contacting all the talk submitters to confirm if they wish to have their content moved to the re-scheduled workshop, or other options that may work.
All registrations made for OARC33 to date will be canceled. Once the situation becomes clearer in a perhaps month or two, we will re-open both talk submissions and registrations. Note that as the September workshop is not being hosted by ICANN, registration for that will be re-opened on the same paid basis as other OARC workshops.
Finally, should international travel not return to some kind of normal before October, we would run our next workshop as a virtual meeting rather than postpone further.
Data Store and DITL2020
The OARC team will be using the time freed up by OARC33’s postponement to focus on some essential engineering projects, and improving our internal work-flow to better serve you. I have recently completed a 2020 Budget for OARC for Board approval. This takes into account the exceptional circumstances both of contingency for dealing with the economic impacts of COVID-19, and the need to replace our data store infrastructure. The good news is we seem well positioned to do both, and can get the new data store fully commissioned during 2020 with as little as $20k of external funding. Please contact us if you would like to make a donation or grant in support of this essential investment in the future of OARC’s dataset.
The design, vendor selection and funding work on the new data storage infrastructure is now all pretty much done, and we’ve also just engaged a local contractor to help address the existing data store issues. However, the current lock-down in California and disrupted global supply chains prevent us from moving forward on these anytime soon.
Our annual data gathering event, DITL (“A Day In The Life of the Internet”) takes place during April. To make sure we can complete this in 2020, we’ve added some alternative interim capacity to hold this data until we make progress with our data store infrastructure.
DITL2020 represents a unique opportunity. There’s likely going to be a multi-year traffic volume high water mark in the coming months. This creates a future possibility to compare it against baseline DITL traffic from previous and subsequent years, and to get insights from that, with an understanding of some likely unique scaling challenges.
It’s not just about traffic volumes — there are signs already of abusive domain registrations seeking to exploit the pandemic situation. In the wider Data Science context, it’s even possible there can be epidemiological insights gained from comparing shifting DNS traffic and query patterns against health data. All of this makes gathering and sharing DNS data during 2020 potentially very valuable.
There has been some suggestion it may make sense to postpone DITL2020 from April to May. This would give contributors more time to set things up in the face of the various distractions from switching to locked-down remote working, and is likely to allow capturing an even higher traffic peak. On the other hand, it makes generated data less comparable with previous years’ April collections, may take us further into a period where contributor staffing is reduced due to sickness, and potentially greater operations/infrastructure stress from delayed maintenance. I encourage OARC Members, Supporters and DITL contributors to engage in the discussion on the best dates on our Members and DITL mailing lists.
Having said all that, OARC should of course not make any demands on infrastructure or personnel during the data collection that would affect anyone’s ability to run their business and deliver highly available & reliable service, when they are being depended on so critically.
Finally, while the Internet is doing great right now in supporting society as we all switch to tele-working and -living, we should consider there will likely be increasing strain on the infrastructure over time as traffic grows at higher than usual levels, and travel and logistics restrictions impact routine maintenance and upgrade work to physical locations.
OARC realizes that keeping the DNS lights on is just as critical a part of our Members’ business and mission as the more household-visible ISP infrastructure and cloud services that everyone is relying upon. We believe firmly in the values of community, service and working together towards that aim, and we are here to provide a neutral forum to facilitate and support that co-operative activity throughout. Thank you all for your continued support and participation at this difficult time. Please let us know how we can help.
Wishing you and those close to you security and good health.