Why an internet exchange point in Marseille spells good news for business in the Middle East

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1 Why an internet exchange point in Marseille spells good news for business in the Middle East Franck Simon, Managing Director of France IX - (http://www.businessrevieweme.com/technology) - May 01, 2015 Access to broadband internet is recognised as a key driver of economic growth, job creation and social inclusion, and demand for broadband in the Middle East has never been greater. Some significant strides have been made in the region with the Middle East Peering Forum (MPF) opening in 2013 and around nine Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) established across six countries. IXPs are a hot topic in the Middle East right now and internet growth is strong, but progress will rely on the development of these IXPs. So what is an IXP? The tens of thousands of independent networks that make up the internet have to be able to communicate with each other to enable users to connect with websites not just on the local network but also with sites on the other side of the world. Network operators need to do this cost-effectively, rapidly and securely and so when many networks are in the same location, instead of each of them establishing direct links with each other, which would be logistically challenging and very expensive, they take advantage of shared hubs, known as Internet Exchange Points or IXPs, where they are able to connect with each other simply by establishing a single physical link to the IXP. 1 sur 5 11/05/ :59

2 The users of an IXP hub - Internet Service Providers (ISPs), eyeball networks (which focus on the provision of internet access to the end-user) and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) - are known as peers and the act of them connecting to each other at the IXP is known as peering. The IXP itself is usually managed by a single and neutral party, facilitating mutually beneficial peering between network providers and the cost-effective routing of traffic to different destinations. An airport is a common analogy for describing an IXP. An airport acts as a hub for different airlines to exchange passengers between flights, ensuring that customers get to their intended destinations. This is much the same as an IXP, a hub for different network providers to exchange traffic, ensuring that it is sent to the desired destination in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. The role of the IXP (like that of airport management) is to ensure the smooth and efficient routing of traffic between the millions of private, public, academic and business networks that make up the internet. Without IXPs, the internet could not function as the cost and complexity of routing traffic would be too high, furthermore there would be a significant impact on performance. By acting as a crossroads, IXPs shorten the paths length for data exchange which helps to reduce latency. Because IXPs reduce the latency, they enable higher-speed access for end users, which is a significant advantage in the age of multimedia streaming where there is increased demand for faster connectivity. By connecting providers, IXPs reduce the number of hops (the path between a source and its destination), ensuring that services such as video streaming, file sharing and more can be accessed by the end users more quickly. While the key goal of IXPs is to enable networks fast and cost-effective traffic routing, there are many more benefits; a competitive IXP marketplace offers a great deal of peering options, with ISPs, carriers and CDNs all able to evaluate each other s services and decide whose offerings are best suited to their needs. The Marseille gateway 2 sur 5 11/05/ :59

3 As internet use in the region continues to grow, eyeball networks, fixed line and mobile network operators, social media operators and content providers from around the world are becoming more and more interested in the Middle East market. However, they all need IXPs to be able to develop the market further and there are only a handful of these scattered through various countries, mainly Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, and the UAE. It may be that the most significant opportunity for enhancing connectivity in the Middle East is not through local IXP points-of-peering but through a strategically located European one, namely Marseille. Because Marseille is linked to more submarine cables than any other Mediterranean location, it offers many connections to different regions. Here, cables from both London and the MEA region are connected at the same point, offering a great deal of peering opportunities that may otherwise be unavailable for many countries in the Middle East. Marseille-based IXPs might actually represent better connectivity for many providers in the Middle East than a local IXP because logistics and development are at different stages in different parts of the Middle East region. As in the days of the old trading routes through Suez, the French city of Marseille still has significant strategic advantages for the Middle East. It has the largest number of submarine cables landing at its port that any other European Mediterranean location (eight) and an impressive number of datacentres (also eight) where internet content can be hosted. Marseille has achieved critical mass in terms of internet connectivity and so attracts the people, skills, business choices, volumes of trade and therefore competitive pricing that is needed to keep it growing. A Marseille-based IXP, that already has a large number of peering global-content providers, will find that its presence attracts even more connections. This means that any Middle East operators who are also connected to this same Marseille IXP will be able to get content from these global providers more quickly and so provide a better quality of service to their subscribers and, ultimately to their end users the businesses and consumers in the Middle East. The opportunity for the Middle East 3 sur 5 11/05/ :59

4 Middle Eastern network operators are showing interest in connecting to Marseille IXPs. This might be because content hosted in the South of France is accessible much faster than anywhere else in Europe but, as there are a number of content providers already in existence in the Middle East, it is also likely to be because they are able to peer with a large number of eyeball networks and gaming companies. The launch of the Middle East Peering Forum at the Middle East Network Operators Group (MENOG) in 2013, was and important moment for the region s blossoming internet industry and the establishment of local IXPs is a significant step. However, the industry will develop even faster with the help of long established IXPs that are happy to share their knowledge and experience. Marseille-based IXPs that partner with emerging Middle Eastern IXPs can provide invaluable help and education, empowering and enabling them to connect with Europe-based IXPs and so help improve connectivity in the region. The role of the IXP is critical to the development of a robust internet in the Middle East, which in turn will contribute to regional economic growth. Without IXPs, the cost, complexity and performance of the internet would be untenable. In the Middle East, as with any rapidly growing marketplace, it will be the early adopters of the benefits of IXPs whether based locally or in Marseille - that will reap the benefits. About the author Franck Simon has been Managing Director of France IX since its inception in He took up this role following 15 years as Technical Director of RENATER, the French academic network, where he spent ten years holding responsibility for the SFINX, the first Internet Exchange point ever created in France. Franck is very experienced in wide area networks (WAN) and backbones operators. He's also aware of the strategies and policies for interconnection between operators and of the context of peering in France and in Europe. Since 2012, Franck has also been involved in the AFNIC s scientific committee and its contribution to the definition of future trends in internet infrastructure. 4 sur 5 11/05/ :59

5 France IX is a non-profit internet exchange point with locations in Paris and Marseille. It was established in 2010 as a result of a survey among French operators which found that there was a great demand for a federative internet exchange in France. Its founding members are Akamai, Jaguar Network, Neo Telecoms (later Zayo France), Interxion, Google and Bouygues Telecom. () 5 sur 5 11/05/ :59

6 France-IX expands points-of-peering in Marseille John O'Hanlon - (http://www.businessrevieweurope.eu/technology) - 2 days ago France-IX, the international internet exchange point provider, will expand its network in Marseille this summer by opening a second point-of-presence (PoP) in Jaguar Network s MRS01 data centre. This expansion, made possible by the ongoing growth of its first Marseille PoP, meets the high resiliency requirements of its existing members and increases capacity for new users looking to benefit from peering in Marseille. Forging a Marseille community of peers As a telecom hub, the France-IX internet exchange point s primary mission is to interconnect different internet networks over a single platform and so provide maximum efficiency, performance and economic value. The opening of its second site in Marseille sees a continuation of this aim. When we launched France-IX in Paris in 2010, we had to fix a chaotic situation: the French networks community was split into just under ten internet exchange points and the international community had decided to exclude France from its interconnection plans, even though this country was, and still is, highly attractive in terms of connectivity, said Franck Simon, Managing 1 sur 3 11/05/ :02

7 Director at France-IX. However, France-IX never intended Paris to be its only focus, as Franck explains: We always believed in the success of Marseille and we have been working on building an international peering community in this city since The results of our efforts are now being realised and Marseille is even attracting interest from other internet exchange points. We will continue to do all we can to avoid the community becoming split - the power is in the community. Enhanced resilience With the opening of its second Marseille site, France-IX will be able to offer an alternative as well as a complement to its members that are already connected through its first PoP. Two differentiated end-to-end paths of dark fibres will be deployed to interconnect the two sites, allowing a permanent interconnection between the two PoPs and delivering real benefits to the disaster recovery plans of the networks already present in Marseille. Kévin Polizzi, President of Jaguar Network, a well-known operator in the data centre and cloud computing market, explains that the site is very well suited for risk-management: We designed and built the site with the needs of wholesale operators, cloud providers and enterprises in mind, in order to provide a complete and certified range of services. Anticipating future demand France-IX has already interconnected over 20 networks at its first PoP in Marseille. This community consists primarily of French and international content delivery networks along with French, Middle-Eastern and African operators, which collect the content. We will replicate the equipment deployment that we have in our first PoP at the Interxion MRS1 datacentre. These switches and routers can connect in excess of 60 optical ports. We estimate that at least a dozen additional members are likely to become connected before the end of 2015, concludes Franck Simon. Jaguar also foresees this upward trajectory. We re seeing a rise in demand 2 sur 3 11/05/ :02

8 from the EMEA region (Europe, Middle-East, Africa), which confirms the international status of Marseille. By joining forces, we are confident that the number of peers will double in 2016, says Kévin Polizzi. () 3 sur 3 11/05/ :02

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13 ITW DAILY Tuesday May 12, 2015 A FRENCH REVOLUTION Franck Simon, MD at France IX, talks to Capacity about partnership opportunities in the Middle East and Africa. 21 Q&A Franck Simon, MD at France IX Q What opportunities are there for opening up Africa and the Middle East in terms of connectivity? Perhaps the most significant opportunity for enhancing connectivity in Africa and the Middle East is through Marseille. A handful of cables from the MEA region (SEA-ME- WE 4 and AAE-1 among others) are landing there and other cables are being built (the SEA-ME-WE 5 cable, for instance, which is due in 2016 and will add 24Tbps), offering a great deal of access to Europe and its peering opportunities. Our IXP in Marseille actually represents better connectivity for many providers in the Middle East than if there were a regional IXP, because logistics and development is at different stages in different parts of the MEA region and content hosted in the South of France is accessible quicker than anywhere else in Europe. With regards to opportunities, we have found that while there are Middle Eastern operators interested in receiving content from the Marseille IXP, the existence of several content providers already present in the region means that the demand is less pressing than from African operators. Q What part is France-IX playing in this movement? Our natural role is to maximise the number of exchanges coming from EMEA. We are also playing a key part in the connectivity of Africa and the Middle East, both through the connections of our Marseille IXP and our deals with key partners in the regions, such as Seacom. We are also working with the Internet Society to help establish internet exchanges. However, our role is to not only help to introduce these, but to connect content delivery networks (CDN) with the regions through our Marseille IXP. Soon, it will be as important for these regions to be connected with CDNs as internet service providers (ISP) and Marseille will be the place to ensure this connection. The significance of our role in the connectivity of Africa has been aided by language many African countries are French-speaking to some degree, if not as a first language then often learned at school, which means that our Marseille IXP is most suitable for delivering French content to these regions. A shared language also aids communications and helps to build strong relationships a key element when peering. Our focus for the Middle East is to continue to partner with regional providers and participate in local events, with the aim to educate and empower more users to connect with France-IX and improve connectivity in the region. Q What makes France a strategically important market? France is important due to the sheer number and variety of networks connected through the country s IXPs. We have a great deal of networks connected to our Paris IXP (around 270) among which are large operators or CDNs. Our Marseille IXP also has this type of user, but due to its connections with MEA it is seeing a growing number of network providers from Africa as well. The potential number of customers that these networks bring to the exchange is resulting in a swell of French networks, eager to capitalise on the peering opportunities this represents. With this in mind, Marseille is quickly becoming an international hub of connectivity and we feel that eventually it will be as significant a gateway as Paris. The city s cabling ensures that it provides access to network providers in Eastern and Northern Africa, while cables from West Africa are connected to Brittany in France and the UK. By utilising both France-IX s connections and those in other countries, users can better service more regions. What challenges do you anticipate here and how will France-IX overcome these? The main challenge in Africa is the financial restraints placed on providers in the region. Even if African service providers are interested in connecting with Marseille, many will be unable to do so (even for the short term), due to the costs associated with the long-haul link. The main issue we face is in helping African ISPs to reach our Marseille IXP, as even connecting through the submarine cables between the regions is costly. We are lobbying to help more African providers to connect with Marseille, and one of the ways to do this is to push for the establishment of IXPs in Africa. This will reduce connection costs to Marseille, saving money on IP transit. In the short-term this will not address the underlying issue of overly-expensive connection costs, but it will help service providers to cut costs in other areas so that they can afford this connectivity. In the long-term, this may help to tackle the issue as it will put pressure on African IP transit providers, which face losing market share and will be under pressure to drop costs to compensate for this. I am convinced that as long as you have an IXP in one country, it will reduce the price of IP transit. This, however, is unlikely to be an immediate fix. We must help users to walk, before they can swim to Marseille. Q What are some of France-IX s further strategic priorities over the next 12 months? While our Marseille IXP remains a priority, we do have other irons in the fire. We hope to address the need for higher connection speeds for larger users, introducing 100Gbps ports in Presently, our largest user has ten 10Gbps ports, while we have several other members that are likely to migrate to one-to-two 100Gbps ports. Therefore we feel the time is right to offer these higher connection speeds. We are also looking to expand our marketplace further so that it is home to not only peering, but offers users other benefits too.

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