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Friday was the last day of ISPCon. There were two things that were there that really amazed me. Three were many Canadians there, and VoIP was huge there. I've never been to an ISPCon, so I don't know if either of these is unusual. VoIP seemed to be about 20% of the conference, and was generating a lot of excitement.

Another thing I was really quite shocked at was that nobody I talked to knew what greylisting was. Considering how effective greylisting is at stopping spam, and this was a conference of ISPs, I would have figured that I would have expected more people to at least know what it is.

The Barracuda Networks guys at least knew what greylisting is, even though they didn't implement it. The Barracuda anti-spam system looked nice, but I was surprised that most of the control seemed to be at a device level instead of at the domain or user level. One device can manage many domains and users, but the individual users or domain managers have very little control over the settings.

In addition to a whole presentation track on VoIP, there were 6 to 8 vendors exhibiting VoIP related products. There was a vendor there with a pretty neat network route monitoring program. It would peer with your BGP, OSPF or other route talkers, and would record current and historic route activity. You could also simulate changes to your routing and see visually how that would impact the path packets take. It seemed to assume, or at least not show very well, asymmetric routes. Maybe that was just the demo.

Many of the vendors there were selling add-on products and services for ISPs, not surprisingly. Outsourced call centers, dial-in, website building, “ISP in a box” sorts of things. Lots of wireless there as well. Once place was offering gigabit wireless for $19,000 per month. Lots of wireless radios, enclosures, antennas, and that sort of thing. Smart Bridges was there showing off one of their boxes which was an outside mount enclosure and could take 4 different mini-PCI radios on one AP.

We ended up sleeping in on Friday a bit, and missed most of the first session. I caught the last 15 minutes of the session on SPF. I'm not sure that I have this right, but I believe that the plan is that once SPF is in operation, allowing us to trust envelope sender addresses again, there will be a “trust network” set up (karma.com, I believe is where it's at), which will be used to limit the impact of spammers who get legitimate domains with legitimate SPF records.

I was then going to go watch a security talk, but it was by the same guy that did the “Live ISP Hack-in” talk on Thursday. This is the guy who was going to attack the show network and the provider who was running it, and was surprised when he was asked not to. I was also kind of torqued that he seemed to be pushing a lot of fear without talking about ways to protect against things he brought up. For example, he went into great detail about how switches can be attacked to get traffic for a third party, but not about things that can be done to protect against it. Newer switches will allow you to lock down a MAC address to a particular port, and monitoring allows you to see if someone has wiped out the ARP cache in the switch or is otherwise getting too much traffic.

I decided instead to go to the business track. That was a really good presentation on sales techniques. He was really a proponent of the “soft sell” technique, which is very much the way we like to sell. Establish relationships with clients and potential clients. Give them solutions to their problems, not services that they have to figure out how will solve their problems. Find the person in the business you are selling to that is your peer there, and talk to them. People like talking to their peers. The hard sell can work on some people, but unless you spend the time to get really good at it, you will probably lose to the big companies that have the really slick salesmen.

Lunch was “Topic Tables” again – kind of BOF sessions with food. This time I sat at one of the e-mail tables. Again, I had to describe greylisting, nobody at the table had heard of it. Lots of talk about webmail programs. One guy was pushing IMP, one guy wanted an open source equivalent of the MS Exchange/Outlook “webmail” tool.

Signing off from ISPCon 2004 in Jan Jose.

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