It all started simply enough when I asked Pontus, Yahoo’s! head of Indonesia, if he had any judges he would like to suggest for Yahoo’s! first Open Hack Day in Southeast Asia which would take place in Jakarta. Pontus mentioned Johar Alam – founder of IDC Indonesia. To get a sense of how different IDC is from most hosting providers one only has to read their byline:
IDC Indonesia the First Neutral Data Center in Indonesia.
At first you might pass over that statement without grasping the significance of it. First Neutral Data Center in Indonesia but from my experiences around the globe I would argue that this is a first for the world.
To my left is a common photo one might snap in any hosting center in any part of the world. Some might say that the rack looks a little cluttered, if not overstuffed and in need of organizing but the photo cannot properly describe what it is you are witnessing. This photo shows that every single Indonesian internet service provider is connected across one rack and all plugged into some gigabit switches hooked into the main IDC backbone. No peering arrangements, no contracts and no funny business – the entire Indonesian Internet is hooked together and one man made it happen – Johar.
When I first met Johar I had no idea of this situation and the impact of it did not fully hit me until I toured the original IDC center to witness this marvelous cabling phenomenon for myself. Most Internet geeks when faced with this revelation will usually gasp and wonder how Johar pulled it off. I still wonder how he did it but as I spend more time with Johar at the IDC I realize that his open Indonesian attitude is at the heart of everything he does – including this amazing situation at IDC. Johar believes in the ultimate expression of freedom – the local Indonesian internet and Indonesian’s access to the global Internet is the most important part of this freedom.
Visiting Johar at the IDC allows one to experience Johar, his and his wife’s warm Indonesian hospitality and the open arms attitude of the IDC. I have been there enough times now that I know the drill. Introduce myself at the so-called front office to let Johar know I am in. Then I move to the meeting room, pour myself some tea and quickly log in to the free IDC wi-fi connection. No passwords needed – that would be very un-IDC. I usually catch up on my email and if I did smoke – I would have a cigarette while waiting for Johar. Smoking is also allowed in the meeting room since well – Johar smokes but more importantly preventing smoking would be so un-Indonesian.
A month back on one of my regular trips to the IDC Johar mentioned he had something to show Pontus and I. He told us it was a secret and he could not share it. Working for Yahoo! I am always burdened with secrets so this request was nothing new to me and keeping a secret usually means I am seeing something new that not many people have seen. And so it was to be.
Pontus and I went to the large IDC presentation room with Johar and his wife. Johar darkened the room, poured everyone some tea and proceeded to play us a movie from his laptop. I can’t really confess to understanding what I was witnessing at the time but mentions of seasons, self-expressions and upbeat music married to colorful, almost psychedelic, swaths of imaginative wall coverings had me intrigued if not slightly bewildered. Knowing Johar, this was probably his plan and within that I took comfort knowing that Pontus was probably just as confused as I was.
Lights back on and with Johar looking pleased with himself – I proceeded to ask the question that I am sure Johar anticipated, “What is it?”.
“That,” Johar replied – “Is the new IDC!”.
Then it hit me – we were seeing images of what the new IDC would be decorated as. Imagine if Tim Burton and Johnny Depp decorated a data center using the four seasons, color and a hint of well – freer times as inspiration. I was stunned but I got it – Johar wanted to not only technical create a freer Indonesian Internet but he was also wanted the actual data center to embody this as well.
Fast forward to today and I just had a tour of the new IDC while it is still under construction. Below is a photo I snapped while touring the new IDC. On the left is Johar Alam, in the middle is Juny Maimun (founder of Indowebster), and on the right is Jimmi Kembaren the newest Yahoo! employee in Indonesia. Juny is responsible, in his spare time, for building a site that is probably the biggest consumer of internal Indonesian bandwidth.
The new IDC is not complete and only two seasons have been built but I look forward to its completion and applaud Johar for his insistence on not only creating a brighter future for the Internet in Indonesia but for creating a brighter data center. Stay tuned for Yahoo’s! first event from the new IDC.