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Experiences of Launching a Broadband IXP in North America #peeringweek @LINX_Network

LINX Head of Marketing and Business Development Ben Hedges shares his experiences launching a broadband IXP in a Peering Week guest post.

The opportunity to co-host the 24th Euro-IX forum in the UK has come along at what is a very exciting time for LINX. It’s our 20th year and this event comes shortly after us opening two brand new IXPs; IXScotland in Edinburgh and LINX NoVA in North Virginia, USA.

With LINX NoVA being our first overseas exchange there has been a lot of attention worldwide for what we’ve been building in the States. In this blog I will look to explain the background as to why we’re doing what we’re doing and why we believe this is an important development for LINX and its members plus the peering industry as a whole.

LINX had been approached by EvoSwitch in mid November 2012 to see if we would be interested in running an IXP in their new data centre (WDC1) in Manassas, Virginia, USA. After making a detailed investigation, and with the support and encouragement of our Board, we opted to look for the support of our membership to take the proposal further.

A consultation process began in January last year with members invited to join in a conference call which sought to explain how a LINX exchange could work and operate in the US. We supported this with a documentation set which presented the opportunity, along with a question and answer document that covered the prime issues. This was followed by a resolution to discuss the matter in more depth at the LINX80 member meeting in late February.

Despite the fact that there is more traffic in the US than anywhere else it would probably be a surprise to many that there’s only one North American exchange is the world’s top 10 and that’s Terremark in Miami. Historically private peering has been the dominant model in the US but there is now an increasing demand from network operators for multi-site neutral, mutual exchange points.

There were, of course, some reservations amongst some of the UK members as to whether this (operating overseas) was something that LINX should be doing when we first floated the proposal. However, LINX has hundreds of international networks in our membership, indeed we have more international members than UK members, and so the LINX80 meeting discussions proved to be lively and extremely valuable for us to make sure our strategy continues to ensure we act in the best interests of our members. After putting a full resolution to the membership to vote on at the LINX81 AGM in May 2013 we were given the mandate to establish an exchange in the US. Our members had endorsed the idea that LINX should build a neutral, mutual Internet Exchange in the North Virginia (NoVA) metro area initially deployed in Ashburn, Reston and Manassas.

The exchange in NoVA is completely autonomous and not connected back to London. Its purpose is to provide networks with a way to keep traffic local in the metro area and to give them a viable, redundant, alternative to their existing peering arrangements.

LINX Members wanting to peer in NoVA don’t have to join another IXP or sign any contracts. It’s all part of the benefits of being a LINX member. LINX recognises a critical part of making the exchange deliver value for members is to build participants and capacity as quickly as possible and so we are not charging for any 10G ports for the whole of the first year.

With over 500 members from 60 countries we’re confident that the membership will help make this exchange a success as the very nature of a mutual is that we have a shared fate. We take a pragmatic approach but we have to have a vision too. Above all we are never complacent and always operate in the best interests of our members. That’s what the LINX ethos is all about. That’s why we’re working for the good of the Internet.

The Open-IX initiative makes it abundantly clear that the US network community were, and are, ready and willing for a neutral, mutually governed, member-led approach to peering. It just confirmed our own beliefs that there was an appetite for change and LINX NoVA is ideally placed to satisfy that need.

Other Peering Week posts on include:
UK internet history – The Early Days of LONAP by Raza Rizvi
INEX’s IXP Manager – Tools to help manage an Internet Exchange by Barry O’Donovan
Regional Peering in the UK by James Blessing
Co-operation makes internet exchanges future proof by Pauline Hartsuiker

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