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Bob Goudriaan successor of Marc Gauw 2017/10/12

NLnet Labs' Jaap Akkerhuis inducted in Internet Hall of Fame 2017/09/19

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Ted Lindgreen

Ted Lindgreen

Credits Frank Groeiliken, under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Dr. Ted Lindgreen (1948) is a Dutch internet pioneer and innovator that perhaps more than any other person can be seen as the landscape architect of the early European internet. He transitioned the pioneering EUnet network from its embryonic state to a full-blown European internet infrastructure, as volunteer and later as the first managing director of NLnet foundation. After a PhD in experimental physics at Groningen, dr. Lindgreen had moved to Amsterdam to work for NIKHEF, the Netherlands Institute for Subatomic Physics. NIKHEF operated the worlds largest linear particle accelerator at the time, which meant that (like its modern day successor CERN) it needed the absolute cutting edge technology to operate. Together with Jaap Akkerhuis at CWI, dr. Lindgreen devised and set up a fiber optic network at the science campus on which they were able to run TCP/IP - one of the first such networks anywhere in the world. The network was a key part of the EUnet infrastructure. In order to avoid legal issues, NLnet first operated a closed 'members only' network, and later incorporated as a not-for-profit foundation, until a change in telecom laws allowed it greater freedom.

In 1987, CWI decided they wanted to hand over management of the fibre network to another party and asked the NLUUG (the Netherlands Unix User Group) whether they could take care of this. Dr. Lindgreen was a board member, had the required experience and volunteered. When he became Managing Director of NLnet foundation in 1991, Dr. Lindgreen brought a unique combination of technical and business skills along, as well as the eagerness to make the best of these exciting new developments. At the time from an operational point of view NLnet was little more than a handful of volunteers running contributed hardware. In order to scale up, Lindgreen invested his personal life savings until that point to buy NLnet its first router from Cisco for 35.000 guilders.

Lindgreen deserves the (probably globally unique) credit as the mastermind, financial backer and engineer behind succesfully breaking a country-wide monopoly which was the legal priviledge of telecom operator PTT - a the time still part of the national government. Unlike its wealthy counterpart, NLnet was a grass-roots operation without access to any subsidies or other public funding whatsoever - yet it was at the international front of technology. Lindgreen investigated and talked to many potential providers that had some form of internal network, from e.g. banking, energy companies and even technology company Philips. Ultimately he found a partner in the Dutch rail company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen.

NLnet impressed the managemement of the rail company, by making several working dialup connections across the country (VPRO in Hilversum, Knoware in Utrecht and IAF in Groningen). The modems used were low-cost devices crafted especially for NLnet, modelled after the original design created by Jaap Akkerhuis. His work ethos - working seven days a week, making long hours - and the willingness and ability to do hands-on technical work, were the kernel of huge growth for NLnet. The versatile Lindgreen placed many of the modem banks himself along the rail tracks throughout the country. He spent days crawling around the rail tracks debugging flaky connections, caused for instance by a different type of cable being used for particular parts of the trajectory - helped by his physics background and the technical expertise built up in his prior career.

The deal with NS allowed NLnet to establish a superior network with full national coverage without interference or obstruction from the Netherlands PTT. Lindgreen's generous attitude of granting accesss to a generation of young internet service providers meant that end users had plenty of alternatives to choose from. NLnet's success firmly established the new business model of internet as an alternative to the traditional telecom infrastructure, and inspired many other countries that were part of the EUnet. NLnet turned out to be a great success, and in conjunction with the rest of the EUnet family was able to serve a fast growing user base across Europe. When NLnet B.V. was sold in 1997, it still accounted for about a quarter of the European internet traffic.

Lindgreen went on to set up a number of important institutes. In 1996 he was one of the founding fathers of the Amsterdam Internet Exchange with SURFnet's Boudewijn Nederkoorn. The association model of AMS-ix (shared cost peering instead of a commercial company acting as a gateway) was revolutionary at the time, and inspired the setup of many subsequent IXP's. In 1996 Lindgreen founded the Netherlands ccTLD (SIDN), together with CWI's Piet Beertema and again Nederkoorn. And in 1999 he set up NLnet Labs, an independent not-for-profit research and development lab renowned for amongst others its work on DNSSEC and BGP Security. As a board member of NLnet Labs, he continues his contribution to improve the internet and make is available to everyone.

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Ted Lindgreen

Credits Frank Groeiliken, under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA


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