An Interview with ISOC Fellow Subramanian Moonesamy

By: Tomas Carlsson

Date: December 7, 2007

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Tomas Carlsson

Tomas Carlsson

“Now I got to put a face to all strong people from the mailing lists,” said Subramanian Moonesamy, the man from exotic Mauritius. While the rest of the world dreams of visiting this mythic island country, SM, as he is called, had one of his dreams fulfilled when he attended IETF 70 in Vancouver as part of the ISOC Fellowship to the IETF programme.

Think of Earth as a ball of wool. Then think about pushing a knitting needle in where Vancouver would be. At the other side of the ball is where Mauritius is located, a 2,000-square-kilometre island east of Madagascar. The knitting needle is a good metaphor, representing the ideal connection to the U.S. IP backbone. For more than five years, SM has been active in several IETF mailing lists. And while he has made comments on and suggestions for drafts, he never thought he would ever attend a meeting. “It seemed very far away,” SM said.

“I have to travel for 24 hours to get to the United States. And such a trip is also very expensive.”

The ISOC fellowship programme made the trip possible, and the IETF Journal took the opportunity to interview a person from a country generally unknown within the IP world.

SM is aware of his uniqueness. One of the first questions he would ask was, “Do you know something about Mauritius?” Most of us would have to admit that all we knew was gleaned from vacation advertisements, where the country is described as an island paradise.

For SM, the visit to Canada was quite a contrast. He had encounters with snow, with cold days, and with ice on the pavements. Inevitably, SM caught a cold after a few days.

We met at an Indian restaurant on a main street of the city’s center where we talked a bit about Mauritian culture, including the country’s food traditions. The mix of African and Asian food sounded promising. SM served as a good ambassador for Mauritius.

ISOC Fellow Subramanian Moonesamy

ISOC Fellow Subramanian Moonesamy
Photo Credit: Tomas Carlsson, with permission

Unavoidably, the talk turned to the Internet and its current state in Mauritius. Even if Internet penetration among the 1.3 million people living in Mauritius seems substantial, less than 23 percent of the population has broadband connections.

According to SM, there are three Internet service providers and one national gateway. The administrator of the top-level domain is a private company called Internet Direct. For each name registered, it charges 65 USD, a price that is not likely to speed up Internet usage. Actually, when we checked the registration fee of other registrars, it was even 267 USD. SM was reluctant to talk about his opinion on this and said he better not comment on it.

SM is a freelance consultant for Eland Systems. He has chosen not to become an employee, because he’s in favor of the freedom that being independent brings.

“It means that I can be ‘nice’ to my customers,” he said. “I do not have to sell expensive solutions, but, rather, the best one. Then customers come back, and in the long run it is a better business.”

SM designs appliances for virtual private networks, firewalls, antispam, and e-mail used by bigger companies. His mission, he said, is to assemble software and hardware, do some code authoring, and then adjust it to the requirements of the customer. He finds it very important to be up-to-date with the latest standards, and he follows with great interest certain working groups, including SMTP, DKIM, EAI, DNSOP, IPR, SIEVE, and SASL.

“I found that a lot of work gets done when people meet in the corridors. Sometimes I found people to be younger than they seemed to be when I was only reading their mail,” SM observed.

He talked about the lack of body language in e-mail and how a physical meeting makes it possible to see that people are not angry even when they disagree.

Tomas Carlsson is a freelance journalist who specialises in writing about Internet technologies in Sweden.

“I found the people in the IETF working group meetings open, sharing, and cooperative,” he said, “just like Internet people used to be. They were also surprisingly open to different cultures.”

In the past, SM travelled mostly to African countries for business. For him, the trip to Vancouver opened up a wider working field. If the world of the Internet doesn’t currently run to Mauritius, at least Mauritians can reach out to the world.