A convergence of technology innovation and events makes the time for IQToken now
by Nathan Helfrey
As I undertake this journey of starting a company that focuses on 2 of my passions in life, Networking and Blockchain, I wanted to take some time to write some of my thoughts on how/why this project is even possible and what problems are solved.
As I see it, there are 5 core trends/events that have lead up to the formation of IQToken LLC. Thank you for your interest in our project and thank you for reading.
Net Neutrality Laws
December 14th 2017 the FCC voted to repeal Net Neutrality rules thus opening up the legal ability for ISP’s to treat traffic differently. Public opinion is heavily against the repeal of net neutrality regulation, however, the truth is that not all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. As a Network Engineer and Architect for the last 20 plus years, the fact that Internet traffic can’t be controlled, shaped, or prioritized has been a vexing problem. I’ve spent countless hours in meetings with company executives trying to explain this simple fact, that once your packets hit the Internet, it is best effort and there is no guarantee the packet will reach the destination. The simple fact is that all networks have a certain amount of oversubscription architected into them, and this is true of ISP networks. When oversubscription is an inherent property of a network it also means that congestion will occur. This congestion can occur in micro second bursts, which result in packets being buffered and latency spiking or the packet even being dropped.
As a network architect, I’ve designed around this problem by creating large private Wide Area Networks and Metropolitan Area Networks where business critical traffic can be prioritized. More recently I’ve designed “Software Defined WAN”s where dual Internet links are used in an attempt to mitigate the risk of ISP congestion. It is very clear to me that if organizations had the option to ensure end to end quality over their Internet connections that many of them would choose to do so. It is also very clear to me that ISP’s will want to offer this type of service and capture unrealized revenue.
To undertake a project like this with out the public cloud would require that private data centers be installed in co-location facilities around the world at a capital and operating cost that would give any start up company pause. By leveraging public cloud, and more specifically Microsoft Azure’s public cloud, everything can be built following a devops and agile methodology. Once developed the core application can then be pushed to 42 different data centers that span the globe offering low latency connectivity into ISP networks where ever they reside.
In addition, public cloud has enabled me to begin building a proof of concept architecture where multiple ISP’s can be simulated with virtual networks containing virtual routers. Microsoft Azure also offers the ability to spin up an Ethereum test network where smart contracts can be programmed and tested prior to push to the main net.
Everything that IQToken hopes to achieve can be built and tested in the Microsoft Azure public cloud.
If we take a look at the IQToken project with the end in mind, we need a system that can handle a lot of transactions. How many transactions? It’s hard to say for certain, but current estimates are that there are now roughly 3.2 Billion Internet users in the world, and a certain percentage of those users will be willing to pay for higher priority on the Internet.
Serverless computing, and more specifically Microsoft Azure’s implementation “Azure Functions” allow us to design the core application responsible for scripting changes to ISP routers in a highly scalable fashion. We now have the ability to scale out as large as we need to. This is huge for a start up company like us, we can start small and scale as large as we need to on demand.
Blockchain and Ethereum Smart Contracts
So, what’s the role of blockchain in all of this? Well we need to solve a few problems that crypto currencies are really good at, and that traditional fiat currencies are not so good at. 1st, we need to be able to support micro transactions, that is transactions could cost less than the smallest unit of fiat currency. 2nd, we need to be able to handle international payments, and we can all agree that fiat currency doesn’t do that well. Lastly, we need fast on demand payments given the number of transactions that could be handled in a day.
And then there is the amazing invention of smart contracts, which in a nut shell let us put conditions on payments. In our case, if the ISP has capacity and is willing to sell priority to a consumers’ packets then the consumer will release payment once verification that the priority queue has been configured.
Which brings us to the last of the 5 innovations which make IQToken a possibility and ties everything together.
Open API’s on Network Routers
Over the last 2 years I’ve devoted much of my time to learning about NetConf and RestConf and Python scripting and the automation of network infrastructure . Before open API’s, we could script configuration changes to routers using SSH, but this had a fundamental problem. It was kind of like throwing mud against a wall and hoping it stuck, as there was no feedback mechanism from network device to script to say whether a configuration change was successful or not. Open API’s give us this feedback mechanism, and therefore we can push a Quality of Service configuration to a network router using an automated Azure function, receive feedback if the change was accepted and successful and then use that message as confirmation of the ISP executing on their part of the smart contract, thus releasing payment from consumer to ISP. If the configuration change was rejected or failed for whatever reason, the consumer is then refunded their IQT.
These are the 5 core trends that I believe make a system like the one IQToken is developing possible. The team I’ve assembled are passionate about the project. Our vision is ultimately to build a system that is easy and seamless for consumers as well as network administrators to use and this ease of use will be the focus of my next blog post