Valeria Rossi defends the not for profit IX model

not for profit IX

Valeria Rossi, general manager of MIX is passionate about not for profit IX model

I am in front of the typical “blank page” …

I read “Women in tech – a blog written by women, not a blog about women”, and I wonder if a woman would write about technology differently from a man. But this does not matter, this is not the subject.

In reality I have never much felt gender differences in my job, nor have I suffered from it. At the beginning of my career, I had the chance to work in the IP networks field within the academic world. There, despite “networks design” being predominantly a male activity, gender has never been an issue. I realise that it is not always the case, but either I was lucky or I have always behaved neutrally with respect to gender, avoiding to making it an issue.

I must admit, nevertheless, that things changed 15 years ago, when I started to manage MIX, initially as the technical director and later as its general manager. There I had to make double the effort to persuade a board, composed then and ever since entirely by men, that one specific strategy could be winning rather than an other, or that a particular chance had priority over others.

Nobody has ever challenged my technical choices, but often I had to make an extra effort to assert my credibility in business management and general overview. Do I believe that this has been due, at least partially, to the fact that I am a woman? Yes, I believe so, but now, even in this respect, fortunately or thanks to my skills or perhaps only to my strong determination, this belongs in the past.

I think of how many times I had to act with, and sometimes against the governing board, in order to develop MIX, company that started very quietly and kept with a low profile for several years. This as in a highly vertical Italian market where peering seemed both the keystone and a service competing with the transport and transit services of those offering the peering.

It took years before achieving the IX (Internet Exchange) model which is now recognised everywhere in Europe, open and without barriers, where anyone in possession of an AS is welcome … But effort is part of the game.

In this effort I was supported by my colleagues – who along the years have become friends – and co-founders of Euro-IX. Euro-IX is a successful example of open forum where we debate and coordinate efforts for the benefit of the whole Internet community.

This experience shared together, at the very beginning just with a few people taking the first steps towards the achievement of the IX model, later with a larger community representing every European country and many others in the world, has been for me and consequently for MIX itself a source improvement and growth. Doing it with my friends, was also a life gym.

Actually, those have been important years of learning, both for the people and for the market itself.

Perhaps MIX reached some goals more slowly than others.

Why such an effort?

Well, because in such a rapidly evolving world we have faithfully adhered to the successful European models that espouse openness of the market – firstly in Italy but strongly linked to that of our foreign friends.

Amongst all this only one thing is really written in the stone:

never act in direct competition with our members’ business,

operate neutrally  and

never considering a peering service as a money source in itself.

Every internal battle, every ‘lost’ opportunity, everything has been justified by the strong belief that we had to maintain the super-parties role of IXes and in particular of MIX, without discrediting it by giving in to market dynamics which we do not believe is compatible with the role of an Internet Exchange.

IXs are born within the ecosystem of Internet as neutral substrate, functional to its development. IXs can optimise Internet paths, while enabling the freedom and autonomy of traffic routing, favouring openness against closure, protecting the market from monopolies, and balancing the market logic of transports.

Therefore I do believe that an IX has a big responsibility and must be an example of neutrality. The stability and growth of an IX must guarantee this type of ecosystem.

Rethinking to the Euro-IX experience, I’m now certain that in the domain of IXs, the concept of ensemble is the keystone to success:

On the one side every IX is born to operate primarily inside its country of origin – where it knows the actors, the market dynamics, the political-economical implications, where it knows where it can ‘touch’ the ecosystem to improve it

On the other hand, the ensemble of  IXs can act at a global level, intervening on the dynamics of the overall Internet, which by construction is a whole and only entity.

Unfortunately though, the millstone of the business-oriented is slowly but more and more clearly encroaching on our micro-world, where nowadays the strategy of the ‘IP routes trawling’ seems to prevail over a more global stability and growth.

I do not believe this is the right way ahead, I believe that attempts to predominating can only bring confusion in favour of old market logics.

But when things are changing and moving, there’s more fervour, passion, need to exchange new ideas and possibly to battle too. New efforts? Yes, but this is the amusing part of my job.

Tons of peering content on this blog – see here

Other posts in our women in tech week include:

Geeks do drink prosecco
Network filter bypass solutions
Network Automation

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  1. Trefor Davies Trefor Davies

    Valeria wrote this posts to some extent based on a discussion point she raised at the last Euro-IX meeting in Marseille http://www.trefor.net/2015/04/13/euro-ix-26-live-blog-from-marseille/#liveblog-entry-148142
    Her issue is that come commercial Internet Exchanges are opening POPs in locations already served by an existing IX with a not for profit ethos.
    The discussion is whether the IXP community should remain not for profit and look after their own local patch to everyone’s mutual benefit, or whether commercialisation will encroach and the market will turn towards the “filthy lucre”

    1. Chris Conder

      Let us hope that people like Valeria can hold on tightly to their principles, and keep the internet open and free. For the people. Good show.

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