IXScotland – An Internet Exchange Point for Scotland
On 27 March, a very successful meeting of around 70 people was held at Heriot Watt University’s Edinburgh Conference Centre to discuss the creation of an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in Scotland.
An IXP is a set of telecommunications equipment housed in a secure data centre that allows Internet Service Providers to pass traffic to each other without significant cost. The biggest IXP in theUK is LINX (the London Internet Exchange) which is spread over several data centres in the London Docklands area. There are also regional IXPs in Manchester and Leeds.
Currently most internet traffic in Scotland will go to one of the IXPs in England and the vast majority of traffic flows to London. For example, making a connection from Edinburgh University to Aberdeen takes several hops (depending on ISP) and will go all the way to London and back.
The benefit of an IXP in Scotland is that it allows the internet traffic that goes all the way down to London and back to stay in Scotland – this means a better customer experience as this trip causes some delay. Also, with the huge increase in video content (YouTube, iPlayer etc.) the companies that manage and distribute this content tend to store and play out the content from data centres close to the IXPs giving the best response times and minimising network congestion and delay to provide the best possible content quality and customer experience.
I had looked at several options for setting up an IXP and talked with the Internet Society, EuroIX and Leeds Internet Exchange about what was involved in setting up an exchange. When talking with LINX I learned a lot about how a not-for-profit, and member run, IXP works and also became aware of their UK peering initiative. LINX are keen to reduce the reliance on London as the centre for all UK traffic and are actively looking at setting up other discrete IXPs across the UK.
This allowed us in the Scottish Government to work with LINX to accelerate this initiative in Scotland by supporting and co-ordinating the Scottish end of the partnership and supporting an initial public meeting.
The meeting explained what IXScotland could do, helped LINX members and others understand what facilities exist in Scotland and gauged everyone’s appetite to set-up an IXP. All the details of that meeting including video clips and presentations are available online at the Scotland’s Digital Dialogue web site.
A follow up meeting has already been scheduled with the main intention of existing and new members agreeing to connect to IXScotland. After all, an IXP will not work with no members (ISPs and content providers) connected! If we can follow up on the enthusiasm and energy of the first meeting we should be well on our way to having the first Internet Exchange in Scotland.