Anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm passionate about Canada's internet – and more specifically – about Canada's internet exchange point (IXP) network. From my perspective, it is through Canada's current 11 IXPs across the country (and hopefully more that will follow), that Canada will have the resilient internet needed for all Canadians to access the economic, social and cultural benefits of the internet. And this includes large enterprises across Canada.
The internet has transformed the way companies conduct business. Once upon a time, a mom–and-pop shop selling its goods was limited to its community, traditional advertising and the power of word of mouth. Nowadays, the internet is borderless, easing globalization and facilitating the trade of goods and services near and far. For a moment, I'd like to focus on the “near” – enterprises who benefit from the internet right here in Canada.
How does an IXP benefit Canadian enterprises?
An IXP is a hub, where independent networks like local content and service providers can connect directly to one another. An IXP starts out small, with only a few peers “plugged in”, but as more join the network the value of the IXP grows and so too does the resiliency of that local internet connection. By connecting to an IXP, enterprises are creating a shortcut to one another, to their cloud services and to local internet service and transit providers.
People often talk about the cloud and the internet in ambiguous terms, referencing their magic potential and putting all of their trust in its ability to sustain their business. Recently, I came across a sign that read: There is no cloud; it is just somebody else's computer. This is as accurate as it gets.
There is no magic on the internet. The internet is a hub of connected networks, open to whomever would like to join. As an enterprise, when you choose to connect to an IXP, you are accessing someone else's computer more directly than via traditional internet transit.
So what are some of the benefits? There are many, but here are a few:
Connecting to an IXP ensures business continuity in the event of a cyber attack or internet outage.
By peering at an IXP, Canadian enterprises remain connected to local IXP peers, to cloud providers like Google, Amazon, Microsoft Azure and even some DNS name resolution can be maintained during these attacks/outages, offering a level of mitigation and resilience. However, it's important to keep in mind that the larger the IXP grows, the more value it offers.
IXPs offer a stronger connection for key players in big data, multimedia and video games since their data doesn't need to travel as far.
Why should a Canadian-based enterprise send its data through Chicago when it can stay in Canada and reach its neighbour much more quickly? Think of Riot Games. They often need to send large-scale data when building their games, and this would be much quicker through an IXP to their local partners. In fact, Riot Games connects to two IXPs – TORIX.CA in Toronto and QIX.CA in Montreal. They clearly understand the value of an IXP!
IXPs are part of the internet and enterprises are encouraged to connect regardless of their bandwidth.
Having Canadian based cloud providers addresses the “data-at-rest-in-Canada” problem. Interconnecting Canadian networks via Canadian IXPs addresses “data-in-motion-in-Canada.” If you care about where your data is flowing, then ensure your business partners are connected to the Canadian IXPs where you peer.
You can have better network connectivity, meaning your employees could VPN directly to your network via the IXP.
This has been well proven. If your employees are having difficulties with the quality of your VPN connection because your transit is unpredictable or unreliable, your enterprise can peer directly with your employees' internet service provider to increase performance and reliability.
What does internet resilience mean to an enterprise?
Internet resiliency is being able to resolve domain names and being able to connect to remote networks in moments of duress.
What happens to an enterprise when they lose access to the internet and their entire operation suddenly comes to a halt? Whether it's for a few minutes or a few hours, this can be a huge problem.
When an enterprise loses internet connection:
- Online content becomes unavailable
- Online transactions are lost
- Access to cloud service providers is lost, impacting business productivity
- Local employees can't VPN to work via internet transit
- The enterprise is isolated from the world
An IXP means many fantastic things for an enterprise. Currently, Canada's largest telcos, all levels of governments, online financial institutions and many large Canadian enterprises are missing out. I encourage enterprises across Canada to connect to their local IXPs and challenge their industry peers to do the same. If we all do our small part, we can create a larger than life network and enterprises across the country will be able to reap the benefits.
This is my vision for the Canadian internet.