Maybe I lost the war (but probably I’m happier)

For those reading from me for the first time, my nickname is Gippa. My real name doesn’t really matter.

I’m a well-known consultant in Europe. I am 47, and I’ve been in the IT and telecommunication industry since I was 15. Well, since I was 7, when I was 15, things got serious enough to start building a communication network in my birth country (Italy), still using analogue modems and BBS (FidoNet and similar networks). Internet wasn’t a thing.

I have embraced free speech since then, fostering the development of independent networks. And when I came across Linux for the first time in 1995 (kernel version 0.99p), I immediately embraced and advocated for Open Source.

Long story short, it has been a lifetime of fighting against big corporations and big interests to promote freedom. Even if I was very well known for building large cloud architectures in the last 10+ years, they were still private clouds. I was advocating “regional datacenters”, where some companies could have teamed up to form a local datacenter in a given territory and use Open Source software to build a common cloud infrastructure. This would have led to cost and technology optimisation while maintaining independence. And note that it doesn’t exclude public clouds, which would have been great for delivering customer-facing parts.

I invested so much of my career in building private systems & cloud infrastructure. I was one of the top OpenStack consultants in Europe, after all. But I failed. I underestimated politics, big corporations and people’s attitude of not taking risks/responsibilities.

I’m sitting in a hotel in San Francisco right now, and I recently came across this article that Carlos Fenollosa wrote:

Strange game, Dr Falken. I thought the same, even if I wasn’t referring to email, but to systems instead.

The public clouds basically took over. I won’t name it, but a famous telco operator in Italy basically sold its datacenters to Google in “exchange” for using their services. And it’s not the only one. Most companies are going “all-in” to public clouds, even if they cost more. There are a lot of factors, but I believe they are all related to human psychology, and a few are related to facts or economics.

Internet was built to be decentralised: DARPA created IP (and after, TCP) to resist nuclear attacks. Quoting Carlos, “Email is not distributed anymore”, and nor are the systems now. Instead, we are assisting an oligopoly of big companies that basically won the Internet. You can only do much at the business level if you embrace one of those in one way or the other, unless you put in a substantial amount of people’s hours or money.

Ok, dear big corporations. I fought for freedom for years, but I have no more energy left now. Whilst I have an enormous passion for hardware and infrastructure, I have been consulting on “cloud transformations” for the last few years. They branded it DevOps. Basically, I am teaching professionals who didn’t have a chance to use hardware because they started using the cloud how to use systems properly. I am not super-happy about it, but it is how it is, and still, I have a job I like.

Yet, something unexpected happened last September 2022. I met someone very important, and we immediately tuned in. She is one of my two best friends and my tech buddy. We started experimenting together and ended up sharing part of our infrastructure. And I learned an invaluable lesson.

I didn’t need to connect to the whole world to be happy. I needed to connect to my world.

So here we go. Using the Internet as a switching network, more or less like X.25 ages ago, we are building our small layered network on top. Day after day, small brick after the other. Like it was the BBS or Mainframe era. We use services for ourselves, for our own sake, and to exchange things. She teaches me, and I hope to do the same. And I couldn’t be happier. Who knows, maybe we’ll expand the network to our geek friends.

Yes, I probably lost the war, but I’m happier now.