The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) has announced new initiatives aimed at making its Internet exchange points (INXs) more accessible. One such initiative includes the expansion of peering to areas that do not have an INX.
Internet exchange points are locations that allow separate networks to interconnect with each other locally, rather than having to use expensive inter or transnational backhaul facilities. By allowing two networks to connect directly, the Internet exchange point reduces connection costs and improves network performance. The first initiative is a project to create multi-site Internet exchange points that will connect different data centres within an area so that they effectively form one big INX which carries peering traffic between the different networks at the different data centres. Typically these points are located in a single data centre or location. However, as the size of metropolitan areas increases and the fibre networks serving them grow, a single location limits the number of networks that can be physically housed in the single data centre where the existing INX is located. The INX multi-site programme will connect other datacentres in the same metropolitan area to the existing INX, ensuring the number of peers to which participating networks can connect directly is not limited by which data centre they use. This expansion in the number of locations through which peering connections can be made will also build resilience into South African peering networks, and thus make the South African Internet itself, more resilient. Graham Beneke, chairman of ISPA’s INX working group explains: ‚”Quite simply, adding new locations allows us to reach additional peers. The process of which benefits not just new peers as they connect to Africa’s largest and oldest INX, but also existing peers as well by being able to interconnect with new networks. Additional locations also means that we can also provide better resiliency for existing services like the DNS Root instances that are currently housed at the existing INXs.‚” A second, complementary initiative aims to expand the benefits of peering beyond the three metropolitan areas that currently have an INX. Named INXAnywhere, this project will allow networks based in other towns and cities to access the lower costs and improved network performance of peering. To achieve this, INXAnywhere uses ‚”pseudowires‚” to simulate the behaviour of a traditional Ethernet peering link, avoiding the need for operators to co-locate a router at the remote INX. Now, a network located outside of these metropolitan areas can simply purchase a ‚”pseudowire‚” circuit to the Internet exchange point from a participating provider without having to manage remote infrastructure. This technology also reduces management requirements for participants outside the metropolitan areas. They will only have to manage the circuit from their points of presence to the Internet exchange point, as they would any other privately purchased circuit. Nishal Goburdhan, ISPA’s Internet Exchange Point manager, explains: ‚”An Internet exchange point’s value is directly proportional to the number of networks (or peers) that use it, so, it is incumbent upon the INX to be able to interconnect as many networks as possible. These two projects are both aimed at making it easier for South African Internet operators to realise the benefits of peering. We believe these initiatives are helping to create a virtuous cycle by attracting more participants into the peering environment, thus increasing its value beyond traditional borders and operators, and so attracting still more participants. This is just the beginning. We advise the industry to watch this space for further announcements aimed at adding value to the peering environment in South Africain the interests of a better Internet for all.‚” ISPA has been operating Internet exchange points in South Africa since 1996. These are currently located in Johannesburg (JINX), Durban (DINX) and Cape Town (CINX).