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Infrastructure and Community Development 15 June 2021

Successful Strategies for Building and Growing IXPs

Naveed Haq
By Naveed HaqRegional Infrastructure and Connectivity Director

Insights from a comparative study launched today

To bring faster, affordable, and resilient connectivity to people, local Internet stakeholders often turn to Internet exchange points (IXPs). They’re a critical digital infrastructure where networks come together to connect and exchange Internet traffic. IXPs help keep domestic Internet traffic local, reducing transit costs, lag time, and providing a better user experience.

According to the global IXP Database, there are 140 registered IXPs, in Asia-Pacific. Yet, not every nation in the region has an IXP. Though IXPs are growing steadily as their value are increasingly being recognized in the region, there is a budding concern about how to ensure effectiveness, especially amidst COVID-19 disruptions.

In partnership with the Asia Pacific Internet Exchange Association, we set out to find successful and effective strategies to building and growing IXPs in the region. In our journey, we explored cases of IXPs in nine Asia-Pacific countries (Australia, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, Myanmar, Singapore, and Thailand) and four other regions (Brazil, Germany, Kenya, and the U.S.). Here are some of our key findings.

What makes an IXP successful?

The “success” of IXPs is not limited to the usual metrics of number of autonomous system numbers (ASNs), total port capacity, and peak or average traffic. IXPs bring benefits beyond ports and speeds. When they encourage local innovation and growth of the Internet economy, organize training events and peering forums that strengthen the technical community, and promote best practices among their members to protect the Internet, they have more success.

Is there a magic business model for IXPs?

Though most of the cases examined are neutral not-for-profit, the study suggests there is no single business model an IXP operator can adopt to ensure its success. Yet, there are some common factors contributing to the success of many IXPs, one of which is neutrality. This means there is no discrimination on who can connect to an IXP. Responsiveness is also another success determinant. When IXP operators respond to the needs of their members, they strengthen relationships and their reputation as well.

Costs, equipment, and skills

Cases examined in the study show that when the quality is as good, and the cost to participate is less than the cost to pay for equivalent transit, members easily invest to connect and make use of the IXP. Other requirements for success include technical skill, participant trust, community engagement, and operational excellence. Success also relies on access to diverse infrastructure, a competitive service-provider market, and a supportive regulatory environment that is conducive to open, settlement-free peering. The report shows IXPs thrive better in conducive regulatory environments and less in hostile ones.

Cloud-based applications

The report finds that an important trend influencing IXP growth is the migration to cloud-based applications and the unrelenting growth in content consumption. These factors are driving the need for servers and storage closer to the customer. Where a large proportion of customers can be reached from the IXP, it is more likely to attract cloud and content companies.

Read more findings and recommendations in Effective IXP Strategies for the Asia-Pacific.
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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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