How did everything begin 25 years ago?
In the early 1990s, the Internet crawled out of academia. The ARPANET project involved hundreds of universities around the globe, including two in Germany, in Göttingen and Karlsruhe. In 1991, two ISPs were formed, and they spread all over Germany. By 1995, we had 15 to17 ISPs of them. At the time, whenever an email went from ISP A to ISP B it went all the way through to NAP of America, in Miami, and MAE East, in Virginia, and then came back to ISP B in Germany, crossing the Atlantic Ocean twice during the journey. Effectively, Germany’s Internet traffic was exchanged in the United States. The transatlantic lines were very expensive, and this led to the idea of an Internet Exchange.
Some of the early ISPs in Europe—in Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt—started to think about “peering” or exchanging their traffic at an exchange. That’s how DE-CIX was formed in mid-1995 in Germany. We started off in a small way, not in a data center but in the backyard of an old post office building in Gutleutviertel.
The eco Association
DE-CIX was originally managed by Electronic Commerce Forum, now known as the eco Association. Most DE-CIX customers are corporate members of the eco Association. Currently, eco has more than 1,100 members. Since 1995, eco has been instrumental in the development of the Internet in Germany, fostering new technologies, infrastructures and markets, and forming framework conditions. DE-CIX Management GmbH was spun off from eco—the Association of the German Internet Industry in 2003 and became an independent company. Today, the DE-CIX Group
AG is run by eco as its sole sharholder.
Frankfurt was one of the first cities that had independent carriers including MFS and others. So, there were connectivity options for businesses, in addition to an incumbent provider in Deutsche Telekom. Therefore, there was a market for the ISPs to buy capacity and get connected to an IX. That’s how we got started with DE-CIX in Frankfurt.
What was the journey like? Could you please take us through it?
1995-2000, the ‘growing up’ phase
The early years were very competitive. This competition was very visible at the exchange, because everybody wanted to join the IX. However, since we were community-driven, someone had to decide who could join and who could not. A lot of paperwork was exchanged between various parties. We got the first exchange fully operational towards the end of 1995 and started exchanging live traffic between different networks. It was a humble beginning.