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Breathing Room

The AAVSO has been on the commercial Internet, well, since before there was a commercial Internet. One of the very first projects I did here at the AAVSO, a full year before I started on staff, was to scan in and index the Alert Notices to the ADS. Those were fascinating because you could watch some AAVSO infrastructure changes take place as you read them, like the migration of our network access from a NASA-based address, to BITNet (anyone remember BITNet?) to the address we have now.

One of the legacies of that history was that the AAVSO had a collection of 32 actual, routable Internet addresses that we used for everything. When I came here three years ago this was very unusual. The vast majority of places I'd been to used what is called NAT addressing to use a small portion of the Internet that are reserved for private networks and can be used over and over again. You've heard about us running out of Internet addresses? Well, without NAT it would have happened about 20 years ago!

But the AAVSO had this pool of 32 "real" Internet addresses that we used. When we originally had them it was a boon. It was all we needed. But by the time I arrived we were hitting the edge of the ceiling, especially when we had guests. The first meeting we had here at the new HQ had me juggling addresses so that folks could get onto the Net with their laptops, not always successfully. I "patched" things by getting a Wireless Access Point - those of you who have spent some time at HQ may remember AAVSOGuest - and set it up to use what is called the "192" address space. Then we had 254 wireless addresses for folks coming in to use the Internet!

But we didn't use wireless a lot at HQ. We wanted to use the gigabit ethernet that we'd put in the building and that required using the pool of those 32 addresses. Now, however, there were a lot of things that wanted those addresses: the computers, printers, switches, wireless access points, and servers. Heck, if it plugs in now-a-days, it might want an IP address.

Things came to a head a few weeks ago. We'd decided on a new Voice over IP phone system to replace the 10+ year old phone system we had that was running off of a 386 computer whose operating system turned out to be OS/2! (When I discovered this I took a photo of the boot screen with my Android phone and sent it to Aaron whose response was, "I thought that operating system died 10 years ago!").

The new phones - 15 of them - wanted IP addresses, but I had no more to give out! I'd wanted to re-do the network to use NAT addressing for two years. Now I didn't have a choice.

And so last Friday I managed to revamp our network. Our internal network now has both the 32 routable addresses we originally had and 254 new ones from the 10.10.10.X address space. We use the original 32 for the servers and certain special computers. The majority of things - and the new phones when they come in next week - will use addresses from the new 10.10.10.X address space.

We've increased our Internet living space here at HQ by five fold.  I figure with the way we're going, that should last us at least a couple of years!

AAVSO 49 Bay State Rd. Cambridge, MA 02138 617-354-0484