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Growing the Internet Infrastructure and Community Development Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

Eighty for Africa: Kenya and Nigeria’s IXP Success

Ten years ago the peering community came up with a vision: We wanted 80 percent of Internet traffic to be localized by 2020. I must admit, over the last decade there were times I wondered if it was possible.

But Kenya and Nigeria have just proven that it is – all thanks to the help of Internet exchange points (IXPs). A new report, Anchoring the African Internet Ecosystem: Lessons from Kenya and Nigeria’s Internet Exchange Points Growth is a case study on how they did it.

What Changed in Kenya and Nigeria

In just eight years a dedicated community helped Kenya and Nigeria to boost the levels of Internet traffic that is locally exchanged from 30% to 70%.

That happened because of a vibrant community of people united around a common cause: bringing faster, cheaper, and better Internet to their neighbours. They did this by focusing on their local Internet ecosystem that is dependent on the IXP.

Building an IXP takes humans and tech. We often say it takes 80% human engineering and 20% network engineering. It certainly is no easy task. Building a strong local Internet community facilitates this collaboration and results in neutral, even, and good local governance and understandings.

Why IXPs Matter

In Africa, too much of our Internet traffic has to travel too far. This results in higher costs and slower speeds, especially compared to Europe.

IXPs are like markets, malls, or international airport hubs. They attract and bring large and small traders or airlines closer to a location which results in better experiences and at a lower cost for those who are near such facilities.

According to the African IXP Association, there are 46 active IXPs across 34 African countries. South Africa has the most, with six IXPs, followed by four in Tanzania and three in Nigeria.

IXPs are a critical piece of technical infrastructure that help improve Internet access by keeping local Internet traffic localized and, because of that, faster and more affordable. IXPs are anchors for the Internet ecosystem and the key to unlocking the potential of the Internet in Africa. But to truly work and be effective long term, they need people:  Engineers, service providers, content developers, and supportive government officials, who share the belief that a strong, collaborative community can leverage the Internet ecosystem on the local IXPs.

See the Difference They Made in Kenya and Nigeria

We started to follow the story of IXPs in Kenya and Nigeria eight years ago.  It can be found in this 2012 report.

In addition to the ratio of localized traffic flipping from 30% local/70% international in 2012 to 70% local/30% international today, there were also cost savings. In Kenya, KIXP grew from carrying peak traffic of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) in 2012 to 19 Gbps in 2020, with cost savings quadrupling to USD six million per year. In Nigeria, IXPN grew from carrying just 300 Megabits per second (Mbps) to peak traffic of 125 Gbps in 2020, and the cost savings increased forty times to USD 40 million per year.

(You can see more differences here.)

Eighty For Africa

While the rapid pace of Internet ecosystem development in both Kenya and Nigeria since 2012 underscores the important role played by IXPs, this could not have been possible without stakeholder relationship building, infrastructure development, fostering community mobilization, collaboration, trust, and capacity building.

In my time in working as part of the Internet community, I always find myself humbled by the incredible people who are making a difference where they live.

Eighty for Africa is possible. And we can get there, together.

Read Anchoring the African Internet Ecosystem: Lessons from Kenya and Nigeria’s Internet Exchange Points Growth

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Growing the Internet Infrastructure and Community Development Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

Central African Peering Forum: A Defining Moment for Peering and Interconnection

The first-ever Central African Peering Forum comes at a defining moment for Internet peering and interconnection. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have implemented measures to restrict people from moving from their homes, while only allowing essential movements and services.

But life cannot stop.

Kids still need to study and attend school. People still need to access financial services, conduct personal and business transactions, access government services, pay their taxes, and access health services. Most importantly, people need to access accurate and timely information. But now these services must be provided at a larger scale – via reliable Internet infrastructure. Moreover, some of this content and these services do not exist in digital format. They need to be created, sometimes in the language of local communities.

COVID-19 has uncovered gaps, missing elements, and key challenges, which need to be addressed so that life can smoothly transition to the new normal. Failing to address these challenges may result in severe socioeconomic consequences.

We are now a few months down the path since lockdown measures have been implemented in most countries. It is time to reflect on the lessons learnt so far, with respect to the reliability of the Internet infrastructure, local content infrastructure development, last mile infrastructure, and on possible policy interventions that could help address the gaps. Are we building resilient Internet infrastructure that can sustain and even thrive in crisis times?

This question has inspired the first Central African Peering Forum. The forum is dedicated to helping people connect to faster and more reliable Internet though peering.

Peering is the voluntary interconnection of two Internet networks for the purpose of exchanging Internet traffic, without going through an intermediary network. Peering takes place at Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). It helps keep domestic Internet traffic local by offloading traffic from expensive international links onto affordable local links. As a result, Internet Service Providers can offer a better experience and save costs.

The Central African Peering Forum will take place on 27 May.

If you’re dedicated to building the Internet in Africa we would love for you to attend so we can focus on solutions together. Whether you’re a business owner, technology expert, or user, your views count.

Beyond the “traditional” peers like Internet Service Providers, there are other network operators that can take advantage of Internet peering. This includes content service providers like newspapers and entertainment, content delivery networks (CDNs), financial service providers like banks, government e-service platforms, etc. We believe this virtual event will greatly benefit all of the participants, both through the quality of the presentations and the discussions that will take place.

We can’t wait to see you join us online!

Regional Solutions from Local Challenges

It’s our hope the Central African Peering Forum will shed light on the particular challenges the central African region is facing during these challenging times – and develop real solutions. Some of these challenges are common across the region, and perhaps globally. In many cases, a solution exists and could be applied with little adaptation to the local context.

Let’s look at one example: Education

How can local infrastructure (local content and hosting infrastructure development and last mile access infrastructure ) be developed to take care of local needs?

What is the link between the educational/academic content and the homes where the kids are staying? Moreover, what kind of equipment do students use to access that content? Are the current Internet bundles (volume-based packages) suitable and affordable for such needs?

On the other side, having the adequate infrastructure in place is not enough: tutors (i.e., parents and caregivers) need to be educated, sensitized, and trained on how to educate kids in this new environment.

Using our shared experience, we hope to draw up recommendations and try to address those problems with policymakers, regulatory authorities, who are in charge of consumer protection, and local players, such as Internet service providers, data center operators, and content and hosting providers across the region.

Your Perspective Counts

Wherever you are in the Central Africa region, please register and give us your perspective, ideas, and recommendations! It’s important to have different local perspectives at the forum to develop solutions that last.

Discussions will revolve around Internet infrastructure, Internet Exchange Points (IXP), last mile access infrastructure, local content and hosting infrastructure (data centers), regulations, and policies.

This forum welcomes everyone: consumers, end-users, and direct and indirect players in the Internet ecosystem. Together we can come up with strong recommendations for our region. Recommendations that make a real difference.

Join Us!


Image from 2019 African Peering and Interconnection Forum ©Nyani Quarmyne/Internet Society.

Categories
Growing the Internet Infrastructure and Community Development Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

Are We Ready to Work from Home in the Middle East?

Even before COVID-19, political and economic scenes within the MENA region were changing. Differences across economies, politics, religion, and even the weather kept governments occupied.

Amid all that, the region has been shaken by COVID-19 as nations have moved operations into the home.

Looking at this from a technology perspective, we must ask ourselves: Are we ready for this? Are we able to transfer all our businesses and schools to our homes? Do we have an adequate Internet-based economy and good quality connectivity to back up the huge demand?

There’s no question that the Internet provides significant economic and social benefits. COVID-19 has made that especially clear. For many parts of the world, it has allowed us to carry on. But for the first time, governments have had to face the reality that there is no time for pilot projects. This is happening and it is happening now.

COVID-19 has opened the world’s eyes to how critical the Internet is for the economy. How can the Middle East build on what COVID-19 has taught us about the Internet and connectivity? The Internet Society has released two papers that can help develop the answers: “Middle East & North Africa Internet Infrastructure Report” and “Internet Infrastructure Security Guidelines for the Arab States.”

The papers focus on infrastructure efforts needed to develop a digital economy. They were developed through engagement-based workshops in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman as well as discussions and input from stakeholders throughout the region. Through the lens of this community engagement, the papers look at solutions to building a bigger and stronger Internet.

The papers highlight three core things governments can help put in place:

  • Access Infrastructure: The entire value chain of infrastructure that carries traffic to and from international points, should deliver the traffic throughout the country, and connect users to the Internet. Through a network of networks, national Internet infrastructure will be better and stronger, and provide resiliency and redundancy.
  • Content Infrastructure: Internet exchange points (IXPs), where traffic can be exchanged on a local basis, and data centers, where content and applications can be hosted, should be developed to increase local resiliency and redundancy. Using local content infrastructure lowers the time and cost needed to deliver traffic, allows easier access to content, and improves quality of service, which in turn helps to promote Internet adoption and usage.
  • Digital Economy: The ecosystem to create content and services to fully utilize the access and content infrastructure drives socioeconomic development. A digital economy enables entrepreneurs to innovate while also providing consumers with the ability to use their new services, and helps bring existing sectors online to transform the entire economy.

We ask you to share these papers widely, especially with your local government. COVID-19 helped us realize how critical it is to bring all of the Middle East online. By working together, we can make a difference.

Read “Middle East & North Africa Internet Infrastructure Report” and “Internet Infrastructure Security Guidelines for the Arab States.”


Image of Cairo by Omar Elsharawy via Unsplash.

Categories
Growing the Internet Infrastructure and Community Development Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

Why Is So Much Internet Traffic Leaving Pakistan?

This article appeared first on the APNIC website.

At the recent SANOG meeting held in my homeland, Pakistan, I wanted to provide the local community with some insights into the importance of Internet exchanges (IXs), specifically the need to host content locally.

Knowing that data is king among network operators, I set up a virtual machine as soon as I arrived to collect information on several key metrics, including latency and the hosting location of .pk domains. Needless to say, the results were surprising.

How long does it take to connect to public Domain Name System (DNS) services?

First, I tested for latency, specifically the time it takes to PING three of the most popular public DNS services: Cloudflare DNS (1.1.1.1), Google Public DNS (8.8.8.8), and Quad9 (9.9.9.9). PING is not the best way to test DNS but this is for reachability purpose only.

Before leaving my home in Sydney, Australia, I did the same to offer a comparison. As you can see from the results in Figure 1, all were below 1ms.

Figure 1: Latency measurements to connect to public DNS services in Sydney, Australia

The results for Pakistan were less consistent.

Cloudflare was the best of the bunch with an average of 3ms, thanks largely to the three data centres they opened in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad in late 2018.

Google was second and even though it has several caches hosted in Pakistan, its latency hovered around 25ms.

Quad9, which has no local points-of-presence, came in at a very slow 203ms.

What this experiment shows is the importance of hosting services locally. We could expect to see a further reduction in latency if such services were also hosted at a local IX, as it would reduce the number of hops for those that peer with it to one – the benefits of which would be reduced transit costs, with the savings being handed down to customers.

Currently, Pakistan has one IX, PKIX, which has two exchange points – one in Islamabad and one in Karachi – with 17 members peering with it.

Where are “local” websites hosted?

As we’ve seen so far, the best way to reduce latency for DNS services is to make them local, so packets don’t have to travel extreme distances. The same can be said for web content too, whereby websites hosted locally should, in theory, be faster to connect to than those hosted internationally.

So, for my second experiment, I looked at where websites with .pk country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) were being hosted.

The time of my test was short so I could only get public data, which was around 15,000 .pk domains. However, like the latency test, it provided a very clear picture of the current situation.

Of the 14,927 .pk domains, only 1,541 are being hosted by Internet service providers (ISPs) or entities registered in Pakistan, and another 1,304 are being hosted by Cloudflare. That’s less than 20% of sites that, you would think, would be targeting local users. Instead, more than 80% of “local content” is being hosted in servers outside of Pakistan, and, as such, is subject to international transit costs and increased latency.

Figure 2: DNS records for .pk domains

Digging deeper, I also looked it up for gov.pk, who you would think are targeting the people in Pakistan, right? Out of 431 gov.pk domains I found in the 15,000 domain addresses, only 72 are registered or advertised by Pakistani entities, 28 are with Cloudflare, and the remaining 331 are outside of Pakistan.

Figure 3: DNS records for gov.pk domains

Needless to say, I was quite surprised that so many local council websites are hosted outside of Pakistan, most likely because they were cheap.

Finally, I looked at edu.pk. For a university to host something outside of Pakistan and not within the university is blasphemy for me. Unfortunately, this is the case for the majority of edu.pk sites with fewer than 20% hosted locally.

Figure 4: DNS records for edu.pk domains

How many websites have Quad A records?

The IPv6 Task Force was established in Pakistan around 2006/07 during which time it built a test network between several ISPs. Unfortunately, IPv6 never caught the limelight beyond testing and enabling in core networks, and capability remains less than 1%.

I was hoping that because many websites are hosted outside Pakistan, that content might have been accessible via IPv6. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case either, with the exception of Cloudflare.

Figure 5: AAAA records for .pk domains

One thing that’s not clear from Figure 5 is that of the 1,304 websites hosted by Cloudflare, why were only 1,087 responding to AAAA requests? Have some turned off IPv6? If so, why? I plan on digging deeper into this using the virtual machine generously provided by Rapid Compute (a cloud services provider in Pakistan).

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that all of the above would be a lot worse if it weren’t for Cloudflare setting up its Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) in Pakistan in 2018. However, if more CDNs are set up in Pakistan, there needs to be more local content available for them to host. This surely cannot be too difficult for an economy with more than 200 million people.

Internet Exchange Points are vital to bringing faster and more affordable Internet to people. Learn how you can support them!

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Improving Technical Security Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS)

Securing the Internet: Introducing Oracle Internet Intelligence IXP Filter Check

Oracle is an Organization Member of the Internet Society. We welcome this guest post announcing a new tool that complements our work to improve the security of the Internet’s routing infrastructure.

We are proud to announce the launch of the IXP Filter Check, which is designed to improve Internet routing security by monitoring route filtering at Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). Here we describe the origin of this project, how it works, and what it hopes to achieve.

Background

Last year, Oracle started partnering with the Internet Society to explore ways to make the Internet safer and more secure for our enterprise customers and users. Businesses – banks, insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms – as well as non-profit organizations and governments continue to turn to Internet-facing assets as key components of their critical infrastructure. Market research firm IDC estimates that 55.9 billion devices will be online by 2025. We believe it is incumbent upon us, as trusted partners and suppliers, to help make the global Internet as safe as possible.

Securing trust-based Internet routing is one such security challenge. Despite decades of research and engineering on the topic, securing Internet routing remains a notoriously difficult task. The challenge is evidenced by the fact that nearly every month there is another major story of a disruptive BGP routing incident.

Routing mistakes will inevitably occur as long as people configure routers. Our best hope at containing these incidents is deploying layers of route filtering at key junctions of the Internet. Those junctions fall into two categories: network operators and IXPs.

With respect to network operators, large telecoms have begun announcing their plans to implement the Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI), which is very encouraging. As for IXPs, there is an active movement within the IXP community to filter routes exchanged at route servers based on RPKI and other best practices. With its announcement of its IXP program last year, the MANRS Initiative broadened the scope of its secure routing initiative beyond network operators.

Filtering at Route Servers

Implementing route filtering at IXPs offers the opportunity to make real progress in the improvement of Internet routing hygiene. IXPs serve a vital role in the infrastructure of the Internet by facilitating thousands of connections between the networks of telecoms, content providers, and other major businesses.

However, the implementation of route filtering can be complicated and to date there has been no way to independently and programmatically verify whether an IXP was appropriately filtering its routes. Using data graciously published by Packet Clearinghouse (PCH) and data processing supported by Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, the Oracle Internet Intelligence team developed IXP Filter Check to analyze route filtering at nearly 200 IXPs around the world.

By monitoring the routes passed by route servers at these IXPs, and identifying those routes that should have been filtered, IXP Filter Check identifies gaps in route filtering and aims to assist in technical compliance of MANRS IXP requirements.

In the course its development, IXP Filter Check has identified major filtering misconfigurations at three IXPs including a month-long RPKI filter outage at one of the world’s largest IXPs. By detecting these problems, IXP Filter Check enabled cooperating route server administrators to fix their route filtering and also validated the need for third party technical review of route server filtering.

What is IXP Filter Check?

Essentially, IXP Filter Check is a table of metrics observed in BGP messages collected by PCH at various IXPs in the previous day. The table (see below) reports the unique number of prefix/origin pairs, messages that were RPKI invalid, or those lacking a route object (IRR registration) at the time of collection, as well as prefixes and ASNs that are either bogons or on Spamhaus droplists.

Note that acting on Spamhaus droplists is not a MANRS IXP requirement, but after last year’s experience of removing Bitcanal from IXPs, we felt it was important to include reports of questionable routing to the IXPs.

One can click on an IXP to see the individual prefixes being reported as potentially problematic. In that view, one can expand each prefix to reveal recent raw BGP messages which include timestamp and BGP community information as depicted below:

Finally, one can click on either the RPKI or IRR assessment (“INVALID_ASN” or “VALID” in the example above) to be taken to an external source to verify the claim.

Conclusion

The IXP program is an important component of the MANRS initiative that strives to prevent Internet disruptions caused by adverse routing incidents. It is no longer an unthinkable goal for all Tier 1 carriers and major IXPs to drop invalid RPKI messages.

Moreover, if your organization hasn’t created Route Origin Authorizations (ROAs) for its routes, please consider doing so. This will help enable RPKI filtering to prevent routes from being affected during a routing mishap. Find your regional RIR (listed below) and follow their instructions for creating ROAs.

Oracle is committed to helping make the Internet safer and more secure for enterprises and global users and we are proud to contribute this tool to assist IXPs in improving routing security. We thank PCH and the Internet Society for being strong partners in these efforts.

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Growing the Internet Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

AfPIF Day Three: A Record Number of Women

It’s been a record-breaking year: 97 women attended AfPIF 2019, the highest ever, showing the fruits of diversity efforts from organizers and sponsors.

In the last three years, there have been fellowships targeting women in engineering, supported by organizations like Workonline, Google, LINX, and Akamai. There’s also been a working lunch, where participants discuss the best way AfPIF can be more inclusive to women.

As the curtains fell on the tenth edition of AfPIF, it was clear that the future is looking bright, with 367 men and women attending, representing 59 countries: 202 from Africa, 36 from Europe, 16 from America, and 13 from Asia.

The first panel of the day was dedicated to looking back at the challenges in the last ten years, identifying the opportunities going forward, and what we all must do in order to guarantee business growth and better connectivity for the region.

One of the key points was that the traditional telco model is changing, and companies will have to adapt in order to stay relevant. Seacom, for instance is exploring other business opportunities as the demand for traditional infrastructure falls and local content grows, leading to formation of ISPs that can survive largely without the need for IP transit.

“The notion that everyone wants transit to London doesn’t hold anymore. In South Africa, it is now possible for a local ISP to survive on 90% of local traffic, meaning they may not need IP transit, compared to other parts of the continent. That makes sales harder in South Africa, but growth opportunities are there in countries that are yet to open up,” said Mark Tinka, Head of IP Engineering at Seacom.

The panel made it very clear that the ecosystem is made up of complex relationships and will need all parties working together in order to grow. The growth in content has a direct correlation with the growth in data center space. While in other parts of the world its easier to predict the uptake, it is much harder to predict the growth in Africa.

For Teraco, initially, the goal was to have more space, explain to people the benefits of co-location, and have more connections. However, virtualization means one can do more with smaller spaces and the challenge now is continued innovation and scaling, as more companies explore having 10G ports, which was unheard of 10 years ago.

Ten years ago, Akamai’s challenge was how to enter more markets, build relationships and navigate complex regulatory issues in different countries. Now, the CDN is in major service providers in 26 countries and is using the lessons learned to grow its footprint to more countries.

For Google, the challenge still remains access. How do we make connectivity more accessible to more people? Smartphones have become cheaper, but the bandwidth needs to get more affordable for more people to use it. The cost of last mile equipment needs to get more affordable for networks to provide more affordable connectivity, whether through the radio network or fiber.

The issue of wayleaves, whether by national, local, or aviation authorities remains a major issue for many organizations. Whether it’s on cost or the time it takes to get the approval, it was clear that more dialogue is needed in order to make the process smoother.

The afternoon session focused on Routing security which has become more paramount, due to the high number of routing security incidents. In the recent past, a number of routing security incidents have resulted in the global outage of large content providers such as Cloudflare. One common routing security incident is known as route prefix hijacking. This occurs when a network broadcasts or announces Internet Protocol (IP) address routing information, accidentally or otherwise, that belongs to a different network. As a result, Internet users trying to connect to the original network that owns the IP addresses are redirected to a different (wrong) network.

Speakers on the security sessions demonstrated various techniques and tools that ISPs and IXPs can implement to reduce the effect of route hijacking incidents. Networks were asked to implement RPKI which increases the integrity of the global routing address information system. RPKI enables networks to validate the source of routing information received from other networks. The validation ensures that invalid sources are flagged appropriately and are not propagated across to other networks globally. For instance, Cloudflare demonstrated how a recent route hijack incident, which affected many networks globally from accessing their services, did not affect those networks that had implemented RPKI.

Networks were also encouraged implement and join the Mutually Agreed Norms on Routing Security (MANRS) actions to mitigate against the recurrence of similar routing security incidents in the future.

AfPIF 2020 will be held in Kigali, Rwanda.

Categories
Growing the Internet Infrastructure and Community Development Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

AfPIF Day Two: International Traffic, the Economics of Peering, and a Look Ahead to 2030

In the last five years, Africa’s international traffic patterns have changed, with international and  intra regional traffic growing, according to the latest statistics from Telegeography, presented at this year’s AfPIF.

Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lagos, and Nairobi maintain their top hub status, but Cotonou, Kigali, Libreville, Abidjan, and Dakar have emerged as major hubs as international traffic grows. Cotonou recorded 88Gps between 2018 and 2019, showing a 77% growth, while Kigali recorded 75Gbps, a 92% growth, and Libreville had 113Gbps at 71% growth.

This was attributed to a drastic reduction in connectivity costs, which led to more data center space and eventual demand for more capacity to other international hubs. West African connection, especially between Dakar, Abidjan, Accra, and Lagos has also increased.

Telegeography monitors international transit traffic and the presentation was one of the highlights of the day. Domestic traffic is a bit harder to capture but Telegeography promised to work with more providers to get future snapshots of the growing traffic.

The presentation by Telegeography explored the shifting connectivity landscape in Africa and its effect on interconnection hubs, showing that new hubs may soon emerge, as more and more cities reduce the cost of connectivity and invest in more infrastructure.

The data emerging shows that Europe is still a preferred transit route and Intra-Africa route capacity has increased between East and West while South to North connectivity is increasing, probably because of the Cape to Cairo infrastructure projects.

The data also shows that new hubs will be driven by new submarine cable routes, carrier neutral data centers IXs, a friendly regulatory environment that is geared towards business growth, business competition and low prices for local connectivity, and a rich ecosystem with content and growing corporations.

AfPIF also included a presentation exploring Africa by 2030 and what we need to be prepared for. It was clear that intra-regional connectivity was key, as prices continue falling, and expected to be on par with other parts of the world by then. There were other expectations for 2030, including:

  • The customer will have more control over the routing of traffic and the applications, while networks will be expected to be more agile, to provide for the evolving customer needs, and running flexible networks.
  • International organizations will invest more in Africa, given that now there are a billion unconnected in the region and it is slowly becoming an important market for international tech companies.

For each of the past ten years at AfPIF, there has been a presentation on the economics of peering – a way to deepen the conversation on why networks should peer and introduce any newcomers to the economics of IXPs. This year, the conversation was led by Susan Forney from Hurricane Electric.

In her presentation, she projected that Africa’s IXP growth will follow the international trajectory, with falling connectivity costs leading to an increase in content and the eventual need for exchanging content locally and strategically.

For any community considering whether to set up an IXP, it is important to consider the port costs, equipment support costs, costs of cross connect, data center costs, and any third party costs that may be incurred.

These costs can be weighed with the benefits of an IXP, such as reaching content networks or cloud providers like Microsoft, AWS, Google, Akamai, Limelight, Fastly, Facebook, and Netflix among others.

To understand where to peer, it is important to get statistics about the highest traffic sources and destinations on the network, allowing the easier upgrade of capacity.

Stay tuned for the Day Three Summary, with more discussions on content and security!

Photo: AfPIF 2018

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Growing the Internet Infrastructure and Community Development Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

AfPIF-10 Kicks Off in Balaclava, Mauritius

The tenth meeting of Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) kicked off in Balaclava, Mauritius, with participants celebrating the achievements and looking forward to further collaboration.

Andrew Sullivan, the President and CEO of the Internet Society, opened by highlighting the importance of the meeting, which helps create a community that supports the growth of the Internet in Africa, identifies challenges, and ensures that understanding spreads.

In his speech, he noted that traffic exchanged inside Africa has expanded enormously as a result of the work done by AfPIF over the years. One of AfPIF goals is to increase the level of local content exchanged locally to 80% by 2020.

Sullivan, who has extensive experience working with international Internet bodies, emphasized the need for a robust community in Africa, led by Af-IX, that will continue working together to ensure that the Internet is built in Africa, according to the needs of Africans and the African network experience.

The annual meeting, brings together chief technology officers, peering coordinators and business development managers from the African region, Internet service providers and operators, telecommunications policymakers and regulators, content providers, Internet exchange point (IXP) operators, infrastructure providers, data center managers, National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), carriers and transit providers, and international financial organizations. The forum is planned as a non-profit event and international sponsorship and support have been sought to convene the event.

The first meeting was held in Kenya in 2010 when the region was tackling different kinds of challenges: connectivity was mainly via satellite, there were only a few submarine cables, the benefits of interconnectivity were not well known within the local tech communities, and the cost of bandwidth was between $ 3,000 and $5,000 per Mbps.

Between 2010 and 2014, the meeting highlights included “The Peering Game,” where participants were led by Dr. Peering (Bill Norton) in understanding how peering works, the economics of it, and the benefit to end users. This game helped share knowledge and understanding, which set the stage for peering personals and bilaterals that are the current highlight of AfPIF.

Over the past decade, the Internet Society and its partners has offered equipment donations and technical training and community mobilization in at least 28 African countries.

One of the highlights is a partnership between the African Union (AU) and the Internet Society on the AXIS Project between 2012 and 2018 where over 1500 people in 28 countries were trained. The project also supported the creation of several new IXPs, support of 8 IXPs into becoming regional IXPs increased awareness on value of IXPs and policy work on importance of cross border interconnection. One notable outcome of the capacity building work, has been the development of regional subject matter experts and trainers who speak French and Portuguese which was a challenge before.

Going forward, it is clear that the work has just begun and the next decade will equally be critical. The goal is to get service providers from all African countries to participate in AfPIF, sustained learning and information sharing is need, increased collaboration between data center operators and the tech community and increased research and measurements in the region.

As the host of the 10th meeting, Mauritius took the chance to showcase how it is leading in efforts to interconnect the Indian Ocean Islands, as well as grow its reputation as an attractive locale for technology companies seeking to invest in Africa.

Mauritius, Reunion, Mayotte, Comoros and Madagascar make up the Indian Ocean Islands with a combined population of 28.3 million. These islands are connected by Safe and Lion submarine cables but there are efforts in the pipeline to set up a third cable connecting all the islands with South Africa.

The Day Two Summary will cover more about the economics of peering and the infrastructure issues in the region!

Categories
Events Growing the Internet Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

African Peering and Interconnection Forum 2019 Fellows Announced

The 10th African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF-10) has selected twenty fellows to participate in the meeting next month.

The fellows are drawn from various fields such as interconnection, content, infrastructure, and policy. They represent Kenya, Lesotho, Somalia, Nigeria, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Egypt, Uganda, South Africa, Republic of the Congo (Congo), Ethiopian Cameroon, Benin, and Gambia.

Among the chosen fellows are six women sponsored by the Women in Tech partners. The women are drawn from Kenya, South Africa, Gambia, and Congo.

Representing DR Congo in this year’s AfPIF forum is Eric Nsilu Moanda. Eric works as a Senior Core Data Network Architect for Vodacom DR Congo. He has held the position at the Vodafone Group subsidiary for 12 years now, designing all IP Integration Solutions for the company.

“I look forward to learning how to produce attractive local content in Africa, for Africans, obtaining a fresh technical and marketing perspective, and gaining awareness in the evolution of continental interconnection projects,” Eric said.

In the past, Eric has peered on integrating Vodacom to KINIX (Kinshasa Exchange point) and he also worked on the Internet update link for the CDN of Kinix via Vodacom. He is a member of the Technical committee of ISPA in DR Congo and is part of the team that worked on Integration of the CDN of Google and Facebook to KINIX.

Stephanie Achieng is one of the Women in Tech fellows, representing Kenya at AfPIF-10. She currently works at Technology Service Providers of Kenya (TESPOK) as a Technical officer at the company which runs the Kenya Internet Exchange Point (KIXP).

Her past achievements include having successfully led initiatives such as partnering with Google and Hurricane Electric to drive KIXP data with over 60,000 routes exchanged. She also participated in the launching of a new Internet Exchange Point at the Mombasa ICOLO data center, targeting tier 1 and 2 service providers and onboarding members such as Facebook, MTN, and Lyca Digital.

Learn more about all of the AfPIF 2019 fellows and their work!

Categories
Growing the Internet Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

Caribbean Community Gathers Together to Discuss Improving Connectivity in the Region

Cooperation has been key to expanding Internet access around the globe. Ten years ago, the African region created AfPIF, a space focused on collaboration about among regional actors on topics related to peering and interconnection. Inspired by that project, in 2014 I approached Bevil Wooding to create a similar space for the Caribbean.

In recent years, the Caribbean has been losing its traditional industries, such as sugar and banana production. In this context, the Internet can be seen as a good opportunity to leverage the local economy. Fortunately, the idea gained the support of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG). That’s how the Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum (CarPIF) was born.

From its inaugural meeting in 2015, CarPIF has sought to bring together key infrastructure, service, and content providers to improve network interconnection, lower the cost of connectivity, and increase the number of Internet users and services in the Caribbean. This year, the meeting will be held from 12 to 13 June in Grenada, with the aim of highlight the active role played by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in the successful deployment of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in countries like Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“CarPIF plays a key role in bringing together different parties to form the relationships and agreements necessary to increase local traffic exchange across the region. This event presents an opportunity for Grenada and the region to showcase the steps being taken to accelerate Internet development in the Caribbean,” said the CaribNOG Executive Director and co-founder of CarPIF, Bevil Wooding.

“In addition, the forum addresses the peculiar policy and regulatory challenges that have made Internet connectivity, access, and affordability difficult in some Caribbean countries. Removing barriers to infrastructure development, content availability, and Internet traffic distribution can have a significant and positive on Internet growth in the Caribbean, along with the benefits of economic development and social empowerment that follow.”

A very important fact unique to the Caribbean region is its vulnerability to natural disasters. Raising awareness on the need to build resilient telecoms and Internet infrastructures is very important. IXPs can play a key role to keep local communications ongoing during a natural disaster. Collaborative spaces such as CarPIF stress the importance of deploying strategic partnerships – because nobody Internets alone.

Internet exchange points provide a vital way to increase the affordability and quality of connectivity in local communities. Read the Internet Society’s policy brief on IXPs.

Categories
Growing the Internet Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

Growing an Internet Exchange Point in Burkina Faso

BFIX, the Burkina Faso Internet exchange point, was established as an association in Burkina on February 19, 2015 by Internet Service Providers (ISP), mobile telecommunication operators, and some public institutions such as the University of Ouagadougou and the government agency in charge of promoting information and communication technologies (“Agence de Promotion des Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication – ANPTIC”).

BFIX started exchanging the first bits of data among peers on June 26, 2015, during the 11th edition of the national “Internet Week.” BFIX’s service was officially launched on July 10, 2018 as part of the West Africa Regional Communication Infrastructure Project (WARCIP) – Burkina, among other projects.

Despite the launch and the operationalization of BFIX, a number of challenges remained, mainly attributed to the implementation of IXP best practices. In particular the network design was not optimal. Moving forward, the local community, through the voice of its executive director, Millogo Jean Baptiste, reached out to the Internet Society Africa Regional Bureau for technical assistance. A training session was planned and carried out between the 14th and 18th of January 2019 in Ouagadougou under the Internet Society and Facebook IXP Partnership project.

The one-week training had two components: a one-day roadshow for managers and decision-makers and a four-day IXP technical workshop for network engineers. The number of organizations that participated was 18 and 25 persons attended.

A few weeks after the training, the BFIX community was able to undertake an important exercise of migrating from a suboptimal routing design (Layer-3) to an optimal switching (Layer-2) network design. The change removed network bottlenecks  and the aggregate traffic grew from 0.5 Gbps to more than 6 Gbps of traffic at peak time. Most of the traffic consists of content from Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) edge caches accessible through the BFIX. The impact on end users experience is visible with the 1,100% growth in traffic usage and improved quality of service. Equally, the cost savings for networks operators, on international capacity, is estimated at over $120,000 USD per month based on current international transit costs. This is a considerable savings that can be used by operators to extend and upgrade the network to reach more users in the months ahead.

Traffic statistics as of 17 May 2019. Live traffic updates can be captured from https://www.bfix.bf/index.php/statistiques-bfix.

BFIX is a perfect example of how a synergy among stakeholders can bring tremendous benefits and change. The local Internet community (public, private, academia), the [BFIX] association, Internet Society Africa Regional Bureau, Facebook, and other partners such as Af-IX and Packet Clearing House (PCH) have all worked together to improve the Internet ecosystem in Burkina Faso. For sure, the ripple effect of the Internet usage will impact each layer of society.

I would like to thank Jean-Baptiste Millogo and Christian Muhirwa for their input in the writing of this article.

Internet exchange points provide a vital way to increase the affordability and quality of connectivity in local communities. Read the Internet Society’s policy brief on IXPs.

Categories
Growing the Internet Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

Register for AfPIF 2019

Join us in Balaclava, Mauritius for the 10th Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) from 20-22 August 2019.

AfPIF attracts ISPs, content providers, governments, and IXPs for three days of learning, sharing, and building business in Africa.

Why should you attend AfPIF-2019? Have a look through the AfPIF 2018 Summary Report, which contains briefs of presentations, emerging discussions, speakers, and sponsors.

Sponsorship opportunities are available to promote your business to these key audiences. Find out more about these opportunities here: https://www.afpif.org/afpif-10/sponsorship-brochure/

Register now to secure your place – and remember to check your visa requirements for travel to Mauritius.

Don’t miss Africa’s premier peering event – celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year!