Lower costs a goal of new Montreal Internet Exchange

Canada’s third Internet Exchange Point (IXP) will open its doors to member registration May 1 and could help drive down the cost of Internet service in Quebec, according to its organizers.

The Montreal Internet Exchange (QIX) is a new non-profit organization that’s got a mandate to make a better Internet for Quebec. It’ll do that with a new node in Montreal that will help Internet service providers and content providers to connect directly with each other. That means less latency on network requests because they won’t have to travel south of the border before being routed back to their destination. It will also mean less transit costs for service providers.

The new organization is being volunteer driven, but the IXP will be staffed by professional from Réseau d’informations scientifiques du Québec (RISQ), which has been running an exchange for educational institutions in Quebec since 1995. The first switch in the IXP was purchased from Cisco Systems Inc. at a discounted price, and colocation services firm Cologix will host the node in its primary data centre. The organization will be funded through membership fees.

One of the main goals of the new IXP is to lower the cost of Internet in Quebec, according to Sylvie LaPerrière, chair of the QIX, and a program manager for peering and content distribution at Google. The region sees higher costs when compared to other markets in North America.

“By reducing their transit cost, their total cost of ownership goes down. Hopefully they pass those savings on to customers,” she says. “We think this will lower the price of Internet services in Quebec.”

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority also pitched in to help get the new IXP up and running. Not only did it endure nine months of weekly meetings towards forming the organization, but it is going to share some hardware to help run the node. It will have a rack of routers and servers operating a domain name service (DNS) and Network Time Protocol (NTP) service at Cologix’s facility. This will be used by the IXP to resolve Web addresses and keep computer clocks in sync.

The Cologix facility that will host QIX. (Photo courtesy of Cologix)

“If there’s a disaster in New York, all the people that are members of the Montreal exchange will be able to resolve domains and will be able to communicate with each other and all the times on the computers will be the same,” says Jacques Latour, IT director at CIRA. “That could affect financial transactions.”

CIRA also agreed to purchase some equipment from Cisco in order to secure the discount price from the vendor for the IXP switch. Cologix provided the seed money to QIX to purchase the switch for the node.

The organization has a mandate to improve Internet infrastructure in Canada, Latour says. Currently only Toronto and Ottawa have IXPs that serve as primary hubs for traffic exchange and the rest of Canada looks to south of the border for that service.

“We don’t have a very strong footprint in terms of core Internet architecture in Canada,” he says. “The heart of the Internet is actually more in the U.S. than in Canada.”

So CIRA isn’t stopping with Montreal. It’s working with member-based organizations in Winnipeg and Calgary to get two more IXPs online this year. Winnipeg’s launch is about two months away and Calgary’s could also come this summer, he estimates.

Community-driven IXPs are proven to be successful models for these nodes, LaPerrière says. The nodes must be run in a vendor-neutral setting and be funded by membership fees.

“You really have the pulse of the community to make the right decisions,” she says. “Commercial associations have a declining market share and membership associations are on the rise.”

LaPerrière is serving her time as the chair of the QIX as part of the famous “20 per cent” policy at Google. It allows employees to spend one-fifth of their working time on personal projects related to the organization’s goals.

The acronym is QIX because MIX was already taken by two other exchanges on an international list – one in Milan, and one in the Middle East. QIX is also recognized in the Internet community because there was a commercial operator offering it previously in Quebec.

ISPs are expected to be the first members to sign up when the online registration begins May 1 on QIX.ca.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jacksonhttp://www.itbusiness.ca
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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