This ranking position is in terms of the number of unique ASNs or peering members across the IXP. Andrew Owens, Technical Manager – Interconnection & Peering, Teraco, says that NAPAfrica has 323 members and has truly established itself as the interconnection and content hub for sub-Saharan Africa, connecting to over 350 unique ASN’s servicing 16 countries.
Owens says that the success of an IXP should be measured by its ability to sustainably contribute to the development of the Internet ecosystem within its community: “Several NAPAfrica members claim that as much as 80% of their traffic is peered at the exchange. This significantly lowers transport costs across the southern continent and enables clients to offer a better service at far more competitive prices.”
In 2010, Teraco approached the Internet Service Provider’s Association (ISPA) to suggest moving the Johannesburg Internet Exchange (JINX) and establish the Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX) at Teraco’s facilities, which was the only neutral data centre available at the time. The proposal was rejected, which led to Lex van Wyk and Andrew Owens building an exchange. This was the start of a great Internet adventure and a steep learning curve for Teraco.
The first significant milestone was reached when Google joined the IXP and started peering its content in 2012. “Later that same year more content providers joined, most notably Akamai and Optinet, and the exchange soared to a new high of 1Gbps of traffic. Members soon realised the very real value of picking up content locally,” says Owens. He says that the exchange has also become more attractive as content players watch the number of users and traffic increase.
By 2016, NAPAfrica exceeded peak daily throughput of 100Gbps; Telkom Openserve announced its decision to peer and the NAPAfrica community was firmly on the map as the largest in Africa. Early 2017 saw NAPAfrica upgrading its infrastructure to a new Arista platform. Owens says this was driven by client demand as they continued to enjoy the growth in Internet traffic across the continent: “100Gbps ports are the new standard and we are upgrading existing clients on a daily basis,” says Owens.
He says that the first client to upgrade to a 100Gbps port was Afrihost and the demand has continued: “The NAPAfrica platform has the hardware, capability and traffic to support this level of investment into Internet infrastructure. Prices have also dropped significantly, down to around 25% of the levels last seen in late 2016, making this an affordable option when upgrading.”
As Southern Africa continues to grow and prove itself to be the African continent’s largest colocation market, larger than the next 20 African markets combined according to Xalam Analytics, the role of an IXP such as NAPAfrica becomes more critical. “Developing Africa’s Internet ecosystem is a primary role of an IXP together with infrastructure providers such as Teraco. In the eight years since the start of NAPAfrica, sub-Saharan Africa has benefited from local and international content from leading providers such as Akamai, Cloudflare, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Amazon, Verizon Digital Media, Limelight and Optinet.”
Because most of the major network operators in Southern Africa peer at NAPAfrica, large amounts of content reach the man on the street. This combination of network and content operators working together, assists in making the end user Internet work.
Achieving a position in the top 15 globally, Owens says; “NAPAfrica will continue to upgrade its infrastructure. The volume of Internet traffic is steadily increasing with Johannesburg reaching 400Gbps, and Cape Town is almost at 100Gbps. We are ready to meet further demand and growth.”