Internet Exchange Points or IXPs are a key element of the functioning of the Internet. The Internet has become an essential tool for many people. Thousands of millions of people use it every day for checking their email, visiting their favorite websites and purchasing among the thousands of eCommerce sites existing.
Many people know how to use the network of networks, but just a few know how the Internet works so that every user can see the information they request at any moment; even if they are on the other side of the world. On this matter, “Internet Exchange Points” are an important part of all this system. Let’s see what Internet Exchange Points are and how they work.
What’s an Internet Exchange Point?
An IXP or Internet Exchange Point is an infrastructure in charge of connecting the networks of Internet service providers and content providers, to exchange traffic among them. Its goal is to facilitate traffic exchange and accelerate communications by enabling local traffic exchange.
Thanks to Internet Exchange Points, networks are interconnected directly through their infrastructure instead of through one or more third-party networks.
Main advantages of the Internet Exchange Points
Using Internet Exchange Points has many advantages, but the most important ones are: cost reduction, latency and bandwidth improvements and an increase in routing efficiency and fault tolerance.
Thanks to this type of infrastructure, the traffic share an ISP must deliver to its connectivity provider diminishes; and so do the costs. The traffic that travels through this infrastructure isn’t usually billed by any of the parties; as opposed to what would happen with the network of a connectivity provider.
Latency and bandwidth improvements
This direct interconnection also prevents data from having to travel from one city to another (or even outside the country or the continent) in order to go from one network to another. Thus, reducing latency. However, that’s not all. Speed increases significantly, especially in areas where long-distance connections aren’t very developed. Generally, an Internet Exchange Point considerably improves bandwidth between the clients of two neighbor ISPs within the point.
How does an Internet Exchange Point work?
To understand the functioning of Internet Exchange Points and their importance on current connection speeds, it would be convenient to put ourselves in the user’s shoes while he uses the Internet. When we are in front of a computer or device able to surf the network and we launch a request to visit a website, that request creates a data packet that travels to the server where the data is located. This machine processes the request and returns the information.
The problem is that the ISP doesn’t always have a direct connection to the machine that must return the requested information. When this happens, the packet must be able to find an alternative path to arrive at its destination. In this case, Internet Exchange Points are in charge of providing this route. This way the packet will go through one or several IXPs until it arrives at its final destination.
Internet Exchange Points around the world
There are a great number of Internet Exchange Points, more than 150 distributed all around the world. Some countries like the Netherlands, Spain, the US or Germany have several IXPs. Let’s see some of the most important IXPs.
The Internet Exchange Point AMS-IX (Amsterdam Internet Exchange) was created in the 90s as a non-profit organization, with its headquarters in the Netherlands’ capital. It currently interconnects about 800 networks and offers IP exchange professional services. Thanks to which it can offer stable, fast and cost-effective Internet services.
It also stands out for hosting the first mobile connection points worldwide: Global GPRS Roaming Exchange (GRX), Mobile Data Exchange (MDX) and the first interconnection of IPX networks (Inter-IPX).
Look up the traffic volume at AMS-IX, it is simply impressive!
The Internet Exchange Point ESpanix is the most important IXP of Spain and it is located in Madrid. A great quantity of ISPs connect to their infrastructure to exchange traffic. In fact, it is possible to exceed 150Gb per second.
ESpanix has been hosted in the Banco Santander’s data center since 1997, where it has its own 100m2 room; which can only be accessed by authorized staff. It also has transmission equipment in the main data centers of Madrid. From those locations it is possible to access all of ESpanix’ interconnection services.
Look up the traffic graphs of Spain’s IXP ESpanix.
The Internet Exchange Point DE-CIX is considered one of the IXPs that carries more traffic worldwide and it is located in Frankfurt. Most of the emails, videos and other information that is transmitted in Germany goes through its facilities. At peak times, the data transfer volume can exceed 5,5Tb per second.
This Internet Exchange Point was founded by three ISPs in 1995, which decided to establish an IXP in the back of a post office building in order to improve latency; since back then the exchange was done in the United States. Apart from Frankfurt, DE-CIX has IXPs in Hamburg, Munich, Madrid, New York, Dallas and Marseille, among other locations.
Read Dutch version: Internet exchange points, cruciale knooppunten op het internet.