Capital Area Central Texas UNIX Society
CACTUS Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 7 - July 2000


Our Sponsor of the Month -

By Lindsay Haisley

The highly touted Information Revolution marches on, and behind the hype and headlines are lots of folks out in the trenches with fresh energy and new and creative ideas who are actually making it happen. One such company is Our Sponsor of the Month this month,, now a part of Covad Communications, which joined us in May of this year.

To find out more about, I spoke with Chip Rosenthal who's the principle engineer at Chip will be remembered by a number of CACTUS members for his excellent presentation last year on Paul Vixie's MAPS spam control project in which he participated. I started by asking Chip about the description of as a 'Virtual Internet Service Provider'. Chip explained, "This is a business that LaserLink started. We help organizations set up ISPs." These organizations may not have a network infrastructure, but they have affinity groups which need to connect and communicate with each other and with the rest of the Internet. LaserLink helps these organizations set up ISP services, providing everything needed for them. To the world, the Internet presence of these organizations appears as their own, but all the actual services are actually provided through LaserLink's facilities.

In March of this year, was purchased by Covad, the largest Competitive Local Exchange Carrier for DSL in the US. This has moved LaserLink, now a part of Covad, into providing many IP services more closely related to broadband access. Chip noted that "One of the interesting things about both LaserLink and Covad is that neither of us sell directly to the public. That's kind of why the match was so good. We both basically sell to organizations."

I asked Chip about what's really exciting and interesting at Covad at this point. Without any hesitation, Chip led me right to the gold mine! "We're a really big Unix / Linux / Open Source shop. I think what excites us most is not only the wealth of resources that are out there these days, available for us to do our job, but also the fact that our company stands behind us and lets us contribute back. We've got one small package published on our web page. I'm about to publish another one our web page to help people do secure email. We have a problem in that we're a remote office and we're running over the public Internet and we don't have a full VPN setup, so I want to be able to secure our email, so I came up with a solution laid on top of SSH." Chip several times brought up the importance of Open Source software to Covad's work. This seems to be a theme now days.

Talking with Chip, I had a number of flashbacks to my interview with Mike Erwin of OuterNet Connection Strategies for our February newsletter. Like OuterNet, Covad/LaserLink is a young, smart company which is at the cutting edge of Internet innovation. Also like OuterNet, Covad, as Chip puts it, "lives and breathes Unix and Linux" and is a solid supporter of and contributer to the Open Source community. Images of the Earth 65 million years ago come to mind. Although the dinosaurs still rule the land, the real heritage of innovation belongs to the small mammals which hang in and will eventually prove themselves to be smart and adaptable enough to inherit the world. All we need now is a good virtual meteorite impact!

You can learn more about LaserLink and Covad at their websites at and


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