IX Scotland – Why might it work this time?

Yesterday the BBC ran this news item about the launch of a new Internet Exchange in Edinburgh – IX Scotland. This is the latest in an emerging trend of local IXPs developing in the UK, such as IX Leeds and IX Manchester.

There was some belief that this is the first Internet Exchange in Scotland, however those people have short memories. There have been two (or three) depending on how you look at it, attempts at getting a working IXP in Edinburgh in the past 15 years, all of which ultimately failed.

So, why should IX Scotland be any different to it’s predecessors?

I think there’s two main reasons:

Firstly, it seems to have broad community support from providers with a significant Scottish roots or Scottish infrastructure presence such as Pulsant, Fluency and Xtrahost (sorry if I’ve left anyone out, nothing personal).

There is already a clear, co-operating community that has expressed desire for a more local place to interconnect. The economics have (hopefully) shifted too, with the deployment of faster broadband, such that it’s better to exchange the traffic more locally than haul it down to London, Leeds or Manchester.

Secondly, it appears the politics are different this time. On two fronts. There’s the National political situation – the Scottish Parliament are actively in favour of the initiative and no doubt are motivated to see it work.

The other political front which has changed is the players in the local datacentre market.

The previous IXs failed because they didn’t adequately serve their market, and instead tried to serve some other purpose, be it marketing (trying to look “big”, viz. “World IX”) or becoming engaged in some local political dynamic such as competition between different co-location operators.

The local landscape has changed in the carrier-neutral co-location market around Edinburgh (e.g. Pulsant acquisition of Scolocate), such that it can be more supportive of a growing internet exchange with less of an issue with local competitive politics.

The other thing which IX Scotland has going for it this time around is that it’s being operationally supported at the back end by LINX. This isn’t the first time LINX has provided practical support to a startup IX in Scotland: LINX supported the UIXP effort in 2004 with loan of hardware and general help, but in more of an unstructured way. Sadly, UIXP failed because Scolocate withdrew support for the IX (which meant it lost it’s “home”).

The difference this time is the engagement between the IX Scotland community and LINX has a little more of a formal footing compared to last time, with there being an IX Scotland steering group which is responsible for managing the community and what it needs out of the IX, while LINX provides the technical know-how.

The technical community are also keenly interested in growing and developing the local market, and encouraging new entrants to develop in the region.

There’s also a recent track record of success with new startup regional exchanges such as the independent IX Leeds and the LINX-supported IX Manchester which help to buoy up the UK local peering scene.

Maybe this really is 3rd time lucky for an IX in Edinburgh?