Summer of Networking brings international talent to the GlobalNOC

Summer of Networking interns

What do a hip-hop dancer from India and a mountain biker from Zimbabwe have in common? As Kapil Agrawal and Epaphras Matsangaise tell it, quite a lot. United by an Indiana Center for Network Translational Research and Education (InCNTRE) internship, Agrawal and Matsangaise followed their passion for computers across the globe to find a home with the Global Research Network Operations Center (GlobalNOC) at Indiana University.

Agrawal hails from Raipur, the capital city of the Indian state of Chhattisgarh and a 14-hour drive northwest of the Bay of Bengal. With a population of nearly 800,000, Agrawal knows it as “a small city and a good place to be.”

4,400 miles to the southwest sits Zimbabwe, a far southern African country named for its ancient big houses of stone. Matsangaise came of age in Norton, a town of about 40,000 nestled in the north of the country.

Agrawal’s family was the third in the city to get a personal computer, and by the age of five this son of an army captain knew he wanted a life in computer science.

Matsangaise also discovered the joys of technology as a young boy. Loaned a computer, he found it was much better than the typewriter with which he impressed teachers.

Born oceans apart, their stories converge in 2013 at the Summer of Networking (SoN), InCNTRE’s intensive training ground for budding international network engineers.

Agrawal found the SoN webpage as a computer science student at the National Institute of Technology in Raipur. Two phrases stuck out: “‘hands-on training’ plus ‘real world project.’ That’s what I was looking for—and that’s exactly what I got,” he recalls.

Matsangaise heard about the SoN from professor Jean Camp while completing his master’s degree in security informatics at IU.

While at the SoN, Agrawal built an automated test framework for the RouteFlow environment, a virtual routing engine for Software-Defined Networking (SDN). Matsangaise made a template for designing and deploying a NetFlow traffic-logging system, an important first step to evade network security breaches.

For Matsangaise, the diversity at the SoN translated into a broad educational offering. An international internship is good “because you think you know stuff, but then somebody from Montana shows you something, and it’s like: ‘Oh wow! I didn’t know about that.’”

For Agrawal, the real-world practice offered by SoN was particularly useful. “Hands-on training is important because there are new tools every day,” he said. “You need to be trained to develop them so you know how networks work and how to fix them.”

Participating in the SoN was pivotal for both, as it reaffirmed their intent for a life in networking. Their work also caught the eye of the GlobalNOC directors, who hired Agrawal with I-Light and Matsangaise to support Internet2 and International Networks in 2014.

As an I-Light engineer Agrawal will support optical networking, commodity internet, 100Gbps technology, and more. “It is great to have Kapil working in the GlobalNOC engineering group,” says Caroline Weilhamer, I-Light member services manager. “He is a talented engineer and brings a fresh and energetic perspective to our team.”

Matsangaise will work closely with nationwide Internet2 services, providing support for production SDN and high-speed connections to Asia and Europe.

“Epa is a real pleasure to work with,” says Chris Robb, director of operations and engineering for Internet 2. “Every day he comes into the office with a huge smile on his face, and has a seemingly limitless reserve of enthusiasm for every task. Because of his SoN experience we know he has the capacity to handle anything we throw at him.”

But there is more to these two than computers. Matsangaise has found Brown County has exceptional mountain biking, and when he’s not on the trails, he’s out canoeing. “Next, I’ll try snow skiing. It’s cold here in Indiana—a lot colder than in Zimbabwe!”

You’re more likely to catch Agrawal grooving to Linkin Park than hiking in a park. Back in Raipur, he won first prize at the National Institute of Technology for his hip-hop and street dancing, honing his moves like many other young men. “I’ve not yet found a group in Bloomington, otherwise I’d join,” he says.

Both point to the SoN as a turning point in their careers—one that opened the door to the GlobalNOC.

“Back home, it’s like I was babysitting networks,” Matsangaise says. “I thought I knew stuff, but I actually didn’t. The SoN was the entryway where I found I enjoyed computer networks and decided to pursue this career.”

The SoN also turned Agrawal’s head and showed him Bloomington was the place to develop his skills.

“If you sit with people like Jon-Paul Herron, Steve Wallace, or Tom Zeller for just ten minutes, you’ll learn a lot. I am amazed at the level of work they are doing over here. Though I’m far from home, this is exactly where I have to be.”