As initially announced, one of the things i want to write about is running your own autonomous system (AS), i.e., participating on the Internet as an independent network. I might be waving a few concepts around to freely, so if you want me to go into some depth on some aspects (or tell me that i am wrong) let me know.
To get the series kicked off, i will first talk a bit about some caveats and disclaimers to running your own AS, and then get a bit into why i started doing it.
Before that, however, let me start with a disclaimer for this series: There are a lot of opinions out there on whether you should (not) run your own AS if you do not do it professionally and need to do it.
I personally (also being one of those pesky mini-ASes myself ;-)) tend to believe the Internet to be an open space, and this openness and the end-to-end principle to be cornerstones of what made the Internet what it is today. However, at the same time, running your own AS also means that you might be just one chain of minor misconfigurations away from making international news. Hence, I strongly suggest to not jump head-first into this. If you want to familiarize yourself with how the Internet works, DN42.net is a good place to start running your own AS before going to ‘the big Internet’.
Also, keep in mind, that running your own network can end up being a lot of work. You will encounter a lot of things previously handled by your ISP(s) now ending up on your plate. If you do this as a hobby or not-for-profit, it is pretty much the whole-basement-occupying model-train setup needing regular maintenance, and not a single rail three cart train setup you can hide in your office drawer—even if it is just something really small.
So, why would you like to run your own AS? Traditionally, you would run your own network if you had at least two different ISPs providing you with access to the Internet and a BGP session sending you a ‘full table’ (your ISPs view on routes within the Internet). You would usually need to be connected to more than one ISP in this way if you need the a) redundancy, b) connectivity at multiple (interconnected) PoPs (points of presence), c) capacity, e) any other real business need from the category of ‘if you don’t know what it is, you probably don’t need it’.
So, looking back to me, I certainly don’t technically need my own AS. I could very well run my basic infrastructure on a couple of virtual machines and/or dedicated servers, rented along with IP addresses from a hoster.
So, why would I still want to do this? Well, the first part is… it is a hobby. I like running things, and–as said before–running your own network is pretty much the largest model train you can put in your basement. Furthermore, my ‘day job’ is rather unrelated to actually doing things with networks. Instead, i spend a lot more time with powerpoint, excel, supervision, and LaTeX than the tiny bit of sysops left in me would like to admit.
Then, there is an aspect of independence. If i don’t like a place where my physical infrastructure is, i can just move elsewhere, and keep using the IPs i use. I am also independent of my hosters’ policies; If i don’t like the routing (or policies applied to traffic) i can always look for other upstreams. But in the end, i guess, it boils down to ‘because i want to’ (and already had some PI (Provider Independent) IPv4 network around).
A Note on Privacy
One thing to consider about running your own AS is certainly privacy. While domain whois by now mostly has reasonable privacy protection, your own AS and IP address space will be tied to you, or an organization you create, along with a ‘business address’, ‘phone number’, and several relevant email addresses (abuse@ etc.). If there are not many users in your network, it will essentially boil down to you running around the Internet with a businesscard strapped to your chest, no matter if it is about running services, or using your own address space to connect your clients.
Why do i run my own AS? Well, because i want to. Am i happy with my setup? Yes, working with it brings me a lot of fun. Should you run your own AS? Well, maybe, but most likely not. And for those where the answer is ‘yes’, it doesn’t really matter what i say here anyway. ;-)