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MAROSNET was founded in 2000 and chose the Internet and telecommunications as its main area of business... Not a bad start for an article about the company... but probably not a very interesting one, either. You can read articles in that vein on the Internet until you're blue in the face. They are spitting images of one another, and their only claim to originality is in the technicalities (the year, business name, development stages, etc). It is often a challenge to imagine living, breathing people behind all this; their stories, hopes, aspirations and interests. But it is them alone who created the company through a combination of thoughts and action. So it's my goal to tell you how we got our start and how we ran with it, all from the point of view of someone who isn't in the least bit a marketing specialist. My story will be about the people who created and helped our company grow, a company that now goes by the name of MAROSNET Telecommunications Company.
So, off we go! My name is Ivan Lungov, the founder and head of MAROSNET TC LLC. Who else would be able to tell you about how everything started and the path that led us to success?
The enterprise now known as MAROSNET actually first appeared in 2000. Of course we only registered as a legal entity with this name much later in 2005, but in 2000 we first set up the network and connected it to the Internet using a dedicated line. It was this network that came to be called MAROSNET, and here is how it happened: two old friends, Ivan and Andrey, worked together in the Confederation Russe Des Activites Subaquatiques (CRASA) on Maroseyka Street, 2/15 for several years before 2000 (looking at the street name, it's not hard to tell where we got the inspiration to name our company). We were hard at work for the CRASA and two other companies in the same building maintaining their computer hardware. Each company gradually began to set up their own local area network, and at a certain point in order to simplify system administration tasks we decided to merge all three networks into a single whole. To accomplish this we had a total of 250 dollars, which was used to purchase a 10Mb 16-port Compex hub, a coil of twisted-pair cable, and a board with a processor and memory for the first server (we already had everything else). This "server" was assembled on an AMD K6 platform (the quotation marks here emphasize that its definition as a server was tenuous). Compared to the multi-core beasts that are now humming along in our machine room this was no more than child's play, but we didn't have much money and the tasks were much simpler than they are now, so we were beyond satisfied.
We eventually got the server assembled, laid the cables, and screwed the switch into the wall in a moment of triumph. In fact, we really only needed the server so all the network computers could access the Internet. In those years this was only possible through a modem connection, as only very few people could afford a dedicated line (for example, to connect to Demos through a copper twisted pair, you had to spend around $1,000 for two modems produced by Granch (a Russian company), the connection itself cost $2,000 alone, and you had to pay an additional $2,000 dollars monthly for 64kb/second). As a result, after hearing out a litany of experienced specialists, we installed Linux on our server (not without the help of one of our old classmates). But we ultimately failed to set up an automated on-demand connection with the provider using this operating system, so we eventually decided to do this using the CRASA secretary's computer. This was the only computer that already had a US Robotics 14400 modem set up for on-demand Internet access, including from other CRASA computers. For some time our "server" was a glorified platform for experiments, an opportunity to study Linux (we had only just started working with it back then) and run a few games that had already been developed for it.
Our first task was already in the bag. Setting up a single Internet gateway for the whole building helped us minimize modem Internet expenses, and the network started bringing in its first modest profits. But after a while, people working in the building got used to having the Internet around and learned to use it for pretty much everything. During working hours the secretary's telephone was thus always busy from people using the Internet, and it was not an option to dedicate a line solely for Internet access, as there were hardly any phones in the building.
It was then that we started looking for a provider to connect to using a dedicated line that was as cost effective as possible. After a long search and a series of meetings, we found that the optimal solution was to connect to Rosnet through a coaxial cable. Their machine room was located just next door in a neighboring building on the other side of a small park. We spent the next two days underground in the sewers, laying down 150 meters of coaxial cable. Finally, on April 27, 2000, the MAROSNET network was officially connected to the Internet with a speed of 512 kilobytes. We consider this date to be the anniversary of both the network itself and MAROSNET as a company.
By that time we already had 2 servers running, and the server that used Windows 2000 became the gateway. In just a couple of months, the CRASA website (http://www.diver.ru) was moved to this server, where it is still hosted to this day. From that moment on we began providing hosting services. The Confederation's website was quickly followed by one from a tourist agency, which we also provided maintenance services for. That was when the business started gaining some real momentum. The Marosnet.ru domain was officially registered on July 13, 2000, and not long after I met one of the most fascinating people I have ever known. His name is Aleksey Melchakov, an intriguing individual with a laundry list of interests. I won't list all of his many talents; I will only say that he is a Linux Guru (with a capital G). Whenever I saw him working (he later helped us on numerous occasions; one might even say he brought us back from the dead: he could fix dead servers, recover data from a hopelessly broken RAID array, and much much more), I admired how quickly and easily he employed sophisticated Linux commands. If you've ever seen the movie Hackers, just multiply the intelligence of all these guys by ten, and you can get a vague idea of what he was like. Around this time Alexey was also looking for a server connected to the Internet to host a project for one of his clients. Naturally, this was when we started providing server colocation and rental services.
At that time our stock of three servers, the most powerful of which ran on an Intel Celeron 333 processor, were set up on two old Soviet-made tables. These tables also doubled as our work desks. I'm sure that after reading these lines you're smiling to yourself thinking: "yeah, that's child's play alright." But we truly loved what we were doing. We were studying and sharpening our skills, not to mention that the business was already bringing in a decent profit, which allowed us to continue doing what we felt we were born to do. Around that time a lot of people were working in the same business, and I'm sure my colleagues will know what I'm talking about. Many now famous companies graduated from tables no different from ours, set up in cellars and attics everywhere. Countless people started their computer and Internet businesses without ever having anything resembling an extraordinary skill set or advanced knowledge. We were primarily driven by our curiosity, by an insatiable desire to discover the unknown, to have new experiences and dive into the world's most rapidly growing pool of knowledge.
Gradually our business was gaining momentum. The question of making the business official was quickly becoming our most urgent issue of the time (it still wasn't operating as a legal entity). In 2002, Andrey graduated and decided to continue working in his field. At the same time, I hooked back up with my friend Dmitry who I worked with in 1997 at a RiK computer store. The 'political' situation on Maroseyka had also started to change, and I was given the ultimatum of accepting an official job in one of the companies in the building as a salaried employee, or leaving the building entirely and handing the network over to a hired administrator. As the prospect of official employment didn't tempt me much, I decided to leave. And then, as it turned out, Dmitry had opened his own company (Multi Design), which developed websites and provided computer hardware maintenance. We had a meeting and decided it was in our mutual interest to work together on anything we could computer and Internet related.
After I merged with Multi Design, the company expanded its range of services, adding hosting and Internet services By that time Dmitry had several web projects under his belt, and they relatively quickly migrated from other hosting companies over to MAROSNET servers. The servers themselves were still located on Maroseyka Street, and an agreement was reached that I would find a permanent home for them, sell the network, and leave Maroseyka entirely.
Of course we quickly found an accommodating place on Lobachika Street, and MAROSNET's main technical site and office are still operating there today. We took great care when constructing our new home base. Our first order of business was digging up the asphalt on the street so we could lay a pipe to run fiber optic cables through and ensure the quickest and most reliable Internet connection possible. Then we bought three new servers, one of which became an Internet gateway, the second a hosting server running Linux, and the third a hosting server running Windows. To maintain uninterrupted operations, we also purchased a powerful UPS produced by APC. This was needed because we didn't have the option of just physically pulling the servers out of Maroseyka and bringing them over to Lobachika Street. Even today (as we did back then), we believe that letting a client's website become unavailable even for a minute is inexcusable. Moreover, it was about time for us to update our stock of servers. After the new site was launched, the websites were then smoothly moved over to the new servers within a month, without any interruption in service. Our company has continued to gradually develop ever since then: we became licensed to provide ICT and data transfer services, connected new buildings to the Internet, made new websites, built up our infrastructure, and switched over from using computers as routers to Cisco equipment. In Summer 2005, we received an offer from ArtImpulsHost to purchase their hosting business. We accepted the offer and MAROSNET started providing hosting services under the name IHOR.
In the second half of 2005, Dmitry decided for a number of reasons to pursue other interests, and I assumed full responsibility over the company's management. One of the first things I pursued was a complete reorganization of the company's legal status. In late 2005 MAROSNET Telecommunications Company LLC was officially registered, but
the company's development didn't stop there. Soon afterwards we kicked off a significant restructuring project for the network, and started merging its individual parts from different parts of Moscow. At that time we were designing two basic locations for the network: the first, as you may have guessed, was on Lobachika Street, and the other one was near the Kropotkinskaya subway station. In late 2008-early 2009, not even the mounting financial crisis could stop us from going global! In these months we became members of the European RIPE Network Coordination Center, earned the status of a Local Registration Office, and received our own block of IP addresses. As a result of these efforts, we could now connect directly to the center of the Russian Internet, to the traffic exchange point located at MMTS9.
One of our landmarks for enhancing the quality of our services was when Aleksey Ondar, our Senior System Administrator, set up and launched a monitoring and statistics server that constantly monitors all the key nodes of our network. Thanks to its GSM board, if a node or even a separate service on the server fails, all the technical specialists (including myself) instantaneously receive an SMS notification of where the malfunction occurred. This helps us respond to network malfunctions as quickly as possible.
In Summer 2010, we completed the unification of our network on Layer 2 and became the owners of a distributed infrastructure. Our network was connected to the Internet by two independent channels, an independent connection to MSK-IX (direct traffic exchange with most communications providers), two independent DNS servers that ACTUALLY are set up in different, physically remote locations, each with an independent Internet connection (not many modern hosting companies are capable of maintaining two DNS servers in different locations, hence the commonplace website failures and unsuccessful mail delivery). The automatic monitoring system for the entire network was also streamlined, and the number of company servers rose to eight. All hosting servers were built on the dual-processor Intel Xeon platform and had real hardware RAID controllers installed on all servers (not the software ones like lots of other companies had at that time). As a rule we outfitted each server with 4-6 disks with the possibility of "hot replacements," which allowed us to replace one or several disks at once in case of a failure without interrupting the server's operations. To this very day we still employee this practice. All servers were supplied with two power supply units that also featured "hot replacements," which protected the server from shutting down in case one of the blocks malfunctions. We used uninterrupted power supply systems produced by NPower with LifeTime technology for the most reliable power supply around. These systems have external batteries, which significantly increases autonomous operation times in the event the power is down.
To wrap things up, I want to say a couple words about the IHOR project. You might ask, why didn't we launch this project earlier? Well, for one, if you've read this article to the end, you can understand the massive amount of work that had to be done to build this infrastructure from the ground up. The IHOR project is just the tip of the iceberg. Secondly, neither I nor my team have ever cut corners to provide lower quality services. We have all dedicated a huge amount of energy into offering only top-notch solutions. I should also note the important role my second in command Vladislav Polyakov played in launching the project; he did his best to make everything as user-friendly as possible, above all for the benefit of our clients. We always try and see things through the eyes of a casual user coming to the site, from the perspective of a person who is looking for the right Internet tools they need to get the job done. We pay special attention to the steps taken from the moment someone visits our site to the final domain registration and website activation. We try our hardest to invest in the project all the experience and knowledge we have accumulated throughout all these years so we can offer people the best product around.
Ivan Lungov, CEO of