Grass roots movement Open IX takes shape as North America pushes to improve regional internet exchange points. It caught on in Europe but will it catch on in the US?
Since last fall, there has been a movement brewing within our industry; that of the Open IX initiative led by a non-profit of the same name. Currently, there is as need to balance connectivity in North America – specifically regional internet exchanges, commonly referred as Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). Open IX will deliver a clear set of guidelines to commercial providers who wish to participate. So the real question is what’s in it for the Internet?
Here in the States, inter-connectivity through commercial data centers is based on terms specific to each provider. This means that other providers can forbid others from using their networks to peer traffic across a specific ISP route.
In Europe there are not as many restrictions and the result is better connectivity for the end user. Ideally, IXPs are not situated in one building. This ensures that a natural disaster won’t force everyone offline by knocking out the power to one exchange.
The good news is commercial operators are recognizing that the key to network resiliency is through an open exchange. And if the history of the internet has taught us anything it’s that the push for greater connectivity is and will always be based on the volunteer attitude. So is the Open IX initiative a grass roots movement? You bet!
As of this week, the Open IX Exchange has begun accepting applications from data centers wishing to participate in this IXP program. Of course, providers who meet the guidelines of the Open IX exchange will be deemed certified. As of last fall, industry leaders Digital Realty Trust and Equinix had expressed interest in earning a certification.
This year, US based data center provider DuPont Fabros announced plans to enlist as well. CyrusOne and RagingWire may have also expressed a similar interest. Herein lays a challenge: North American data center operators are still driven by competition in the marketplace. Given this fact, participation in a non-profit internet exchange might sound like good PR but likely offers few incentives to volunteers.
The aforementioned companies have great influence on the market so if one signs up with the Open IX Initiative you better believe others would follow suit. After-all, if better connectivity and more network resiliency across multiple regions is what the public is after, Open IX’s heart is in the right place. Let’s just hope this movement gathers steam this year. If it worked for Europe it may just work for North America.
By James Mulvey