March 2020 - Digital Infrastructure | Networks

Fixing systems since 1995 – Interview with Dr. Thomas King

How Dr. Thomas King, CTO of DE-CIX, built his first networks and chose his vocation as a "doctor of the Internet."

Thomas King - 25 Years DE-CIX

The world's leading Internet exchange operator DE-CIX, wholly owned by eco, celebrates a quarter of a century of Internet history “Made in Germany” this year. On their jubilee website, withoutyou.de-cix.net, DE-CIX celebrates and reviews the last 25 years of Internet history. 

In the video below, Dr. Thomas King, CTO of DE-CIX, looks back at at his early experiences in network technology, and his difficult choice between studying medicine and becoming a specialist in Internet infrastructure.

Watch the 3-minute video above or on YouTube, or read the transcript below.

Transcript

Thomas, what was your first experience with interconnection?

In 1995, I was a student attending high school and I was living with my parents. At my parents’ house, I had, you know, a small room. It was already filled with computers - actually, I already had two computers. It was a 368 with 25 megahertz. You know, probably your smartphone has more computing power than this machine, and one of the machines I had at that time. And I was already interconnecting them, so building a network up at my parents’ house.

What was it like to use the Internet in 1995?

At that time, you needed to dial in into the Internet, so you had a modem. And I was always trying to get the fastest one. But still it took, you know, half a minute and up to a minute to connect to the Internet, with all these beeps and crazy sounds. And I remember that I had a lot of arguments with my father about the bills I was generating, because at that time you were paying by the minute you were connected to the Internet. Oh, yeah. There was a lot of discussion about: Why is the Internet so costly and why do I need to be connected so often, so long?

Without interconnection, what would you be doing today?

If I had not pursued a career in Internet infrastructure, I probably would have become a doctor, because when I was 19, I did my civilian service, and I was a paramedic at that time. So I got in contact with hospitals and the paramedics. So I was thinking, you know, fixing computer networks, or fixing the human body, is somehow fixing systems. So you know, the same principles apply. I was thinking, what should I do? Both were interesting to me at that time and actually the body is probably a little bit more complex in fixing it and finding workarounds. But eventually I was deciding – because community networks were so much fun for me – that I wanted to go in this direction. So yeah, I did computer science with the goal of getting into the Internet infrastructure industry.

When did you first encounter DE-CIX?

I heard the first time of DE-CIX when I was a student at university, in a class about Internet architectures, and there was news presented which was coming from DE-CIX that they needed to replace a Cisco switch because they were growing so heavily. It probably was back in 2001 or 2002 or something like that.

What do you think interconnection will be like in 25 years?

If we see what has been happening in the last 25 years: So, interconnection made digital services available and we use them more and more in our daily life. And I would forecast that in the next 25 years, we will see that digital services will cover or will be part of our day-to-day life pretty much everywhere. And so, yeah, digital services will be pervasive. 

 

Dr. Thomas King is Chief Technology Officer at DE-CIX, the world’s leading Internet Exchange operator. The Frankfurt based company runs 20 IXs globally. DE-CIX Frankfurt is the world’s leading IX by peak traffic, with a data throughput of +9.1 Terabit per second.