A non-profit group of Internet supporters is trying to bring standards to North American data centre interconnection facilities called Internet exchanges to lower costs and improve resiliency.

The Open-IX Association said Thursday it is now accepting applications for all data centre and Internet exchanges to join its group.

The move was welcomed by Keven Blumberg, chief technical officer of the Toronto Internet service provider called TheWire.ca, a former board member of  the not-for-profit TorIX (the Toronto Internet Exchange) and an Open-IX supporter.


The idea, he said “is to pull back the commercialization that has gone on with IX’s” mainly in the United States.

There are several Internet exchanges in this country, including ones in Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, B.C., Kamloops, B.C., Calgary and Winnipeg with TorIX being one of the biggest.

“If new exchanges came into Canada we would want them to follow more of what TorIX or Open-IX is doing from a standardization point of view, which is to keep costs down and make it transparent,” Blumberg said.

An Internet exchange is a meeting point for enterprises, content providers and ISPs to pass traffic between each other. So, for example, a provider of a hockey game can distribute the feed through an exchange rather than over the Internet. “A significant amount of Internet traffic passes over an exchange somewhere,” Blumberg said.

Ideally they are non-profits that offer settlement-free peering because both sides benefit.

The problem is commercial exchanges have pushed connectivity costs up in the U.S., he said, which makes it hard for competitors to enter the market.

“We’ve had situations in Canada where data centres have said ‘We’ve got an exchange, you can come in for free.’ and two years later it isn’t free anymore and now you’re on the hook.”

Hopefully, he said, Open-IX will encourage non-for-profit or low profit exchanges.

There are two types of standards: a data centre standard for hosting an Internet exchange (which requires things like at least two separate utility feeds from separate substations, at least two diverse points of underground fibre optic entry, carrier-neutral operations) and an Internet exchange (which requires a public switch platform allowing any-to-any interconnection, a private VLAN, IEEE 802.3 Ethernet connectivity, backplane capacity to sufficiently handle aggregate traffic of all customer facing ports and other technical specifications).

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