THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNEY
Ivo, can you share with us the DE-CIX’s journey from 2005 onwards?
I think we all remember the Pet Shop Boys song ‘Go West’. In 2005-2006, for the Internet, the song was ‘Go East’— the opposite direction. The content networks that Harald talked about started moving eastwards. While they were established in the United States, they moved their hubs for interconnection to places like London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. We took it as a great opportunity to welcome those networks to Frankfurt.
At the same time, we thought that it would be a good idea to head east on our own and ask all network operators in East Europe—Poland, Czech Republic, the Balkan region, and Russia—to consider Frankfurt as a place for interconnection. We invited those networks to meet other network ecosystems in Frankfurt, in the heart of Europe—so West meets East. Between 2005-2010, we were able to persuade these networks to choose Frankfurt as a place to meet all the other networks from the West. So, Frankfurt became the key point in the heart of Europe for the networks of the East to meet with the networks of the West. This is a key part of our success. The American-headquartered content-heavy networks started exchanging their content with Internet access providers and carrier networks from Central and Eastern Europe, and this grew over time.
This proved to us that the dimension of the exchange can be extended to other markets. Markets that didn’t have similar infrastructure as Central or Eastern Europe had already designed a lot of data centers, which is where traffic is heavily concentrated and where traffic can be exchanged locally. This led to a very interesting project that started in 2008 in a market that was completely new to the interconnection business.
The International Journey begins in Dubai
Around 2008, there was no local interconnection taking place in the Middle East. The request for content went back and forth from the Gulf region to Europe and back. This became challenging from a latency and network performance standpoint.
DE-CIX was asked by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of UAE to participate in a project to create a digital hub in the Middle East. After thorough analysis of interconnection ecosystems in Europe and US, we came up with a recommendation and created a new interconnection platform in the Middle East. This was the beginning of UAE-IX in Dubai. DE-CIX has been operating UAE-IX since 2012. UAE-IX was our first project outside Germany, and it proved to be a big success. We have a thriving IX in Dubai which ‘keeps the local traffic local’.
This experience gave us the ingredients to be successful in creating interconnection ecosystems outside of Germany. Our next stop couldn’t be more different than Dubai, it was New York.
Biting the Big Apple
All major networks already had a presence in New York, either at a telco PoP or at a data center. But New York had one problem, which persisted in general in the US. The Internet Exchange model there was very highly data center-operator owned. The largest exchanges at the time were owned by single data center operators. Our model is entirely data center neutral and distributed, which means that our platform is distributed in different data centers that are owned by different entities. This enables our members to connect at a data center of their choice and gain access to all the parties interconnected on the DE-CIX platform.
This model was not popular in the US, but we decided to be brave and introduce such a disruptive model in New York. There was another problem in New York. The market was fragmented. There were six Internet Exchanges operational in the city, however limited to a single data center.
DE-CIX International was formed, and it was the start of our journey in the Big Apple. DE-CIX New York became operational in 2014, and we recently celebrated our fifth jubilee. Today at the 25th anniversary of DE-CIX, I am proud to say that we are the number one Internet Exchange platform in the New York metro region. Our model still remains very open, data-center neutral and completely distributed. We are present in 15 plus data centers in the region.
In 2015, we went South and focused on Texas. DE-CIX Dallas is a fast-growing exchange with more than hundred participants.
Having successfully navigated the regulatory and business climates in two different parts of the world, we decided it was time to grow DE-CIX International, and we looked at southern Europe. We also established exchanges in Marseille and Palermo in 2015, as the subsea cable gateways for Europe.
We foresaw a dense interconnection gravity in southern Europe as part of our ‘Go South’ strategy. Both Marseille and Palermo have subsea cables from Asia, Middle East, North Africa and East Africa. Subsequently, we opened DE-CIX Madrid in 2016 because of the importance of Spain and the entire ecosystem of Iberian peninsula. When we started out in Spain, we did not imagine that DE-CIX Madrid would become the fastest growing Internet Exchange on the planet, with over 200 networks, including the US, European and local Spanish operators.
The pearl chain of network interconnection, after establishing Palermo, Marseille and Madrid, was completed in the West South Europe by Lisbon, which we opened in 2018. Lisbon and Madrid create a strong ecosystem not just for the Iberian peninsula, but also for interconnection in North Africa, especially the west coast of Africa. It is easier to interconnect in South of Europe, avoiding going to London, thereby reducing cost and latency—saving more than 30 milliseconds of latency. The latest addition to the IX family of South Europe is the recently announced SEECIX in Athens. It is a partnership with Lamda Hellix Data Centers, the leading neutral data center operator in South East Europe, and will go live this summer.