More than 150 technology experts gathered in Casablanca for the “Peering Coordinators Day” session, ahead of the fourth Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) opening ceremony.
The Peering Coordinators Day is an open session for peering coordinators, network operators, and policy makers to discuss practical ways to make content exchange and interconnection in Africa possible. Peering Day was started two years ago as a forum for Internet engineers, peering coordinators, Internet exchange point (IXP) operators, and content providers to understand the economics and engineering opportunities and challenges associated with peering and interconnection.
To anchor the discussions, Dr. Bill Norton (photo) introduced “The Peering Game” a session that is a common fixture in all AfPIF meetings since 2010. The game has four players, each representing an IXP, there is money involved and the decisions on where to peer determine whether the IXP makes money or not.
The game represents the real life situations that IXPs and networks are faced with, in determining whether to peer at a certain IXP or not. During this session, the language barrier challenge emerged; the players were from English, French, and Portuguese speaking countries. To some participants, language is a barrier they face on occasion, when negotiating or initiating peering agreements.
The game also underscored the need to understand Internet business models that will allow the IXP to attract more peers and eventually be the preferred peering destination for all networks.
In the end, the game helped participants understand the peering and transit economics and what it means for each party. You can follow the game and the rules as explained in the Internet Peering Playbook.
On the engineering point, in the next session Andy Davidson from Allegro Networks focused on BGP traffic engineering for peering networks, exploring the importance of peering with clean and efficient networks in order to attract more peers.
Anibe Onuche presented on the benefits of AS Path Transparency using BIRD, focusing on the experience at the Nigeria IXP, where they have been able to reduce packet losses and manage peers in an efficient way using BIRD.
The presentations provide more details and can be found on the AfPIF conference site.
The last session of the day addressed the thorny issue of why some IXPs succeed while others fail. Nishal Goburdhan, a leading expert on IXPs in Africa shared his 16-year experience setting up and running IXPs in South Africa.
JINX is the largest IXP in Africa with over 80 networks peering, what are some of the reasons for success?
- Having a bottom up policy approach where members decide what works for them and what does not.
- Keeping costs lean- operating as a non-profit, and on cost recovery basis.
- Don't enforce peering- don't make it mandatory for people to peer with other people
What are some of the bad practices over the years?
- Originally, to peer, you had to be a member of the South Africa ISP Association, meaning there was no incentive for non South African operators to become ISPA members. This requirement was scrapped in 2008.
- Assumed technical competencies- 16 years ago, South Africa’s largest operators were the first to peer, they had teams with technical capacity on BGP and routing, today we have over 80 peers at JINX and not all have the capacity. There is need for more training through workshops.
- There is complacency in building expertise within the local community, yet there are expectations that the IXP will work; community sense has been lost and there is need for continued training sessions for the tech community as well as dedicated staff to run the IXP.
Read more about Nishal’s experiences.
Emerging Topic of the day;
Remote Peering emerged as the newest and most interesting topic of the day. This is a new strategy that used by IXPs, carriers and network operators to extend the reach into an IXP while at the same time reducing infrastructure building related costs. A number of IXPs including JINX have remote peering solutions. SEACOM made an announcement of their new product aimed at promoting remote peering to various IXPs in Africa and Europe;