What’s next for Open-IX?

I’ve recently returned from the NANOG 61 meeting in Seattle (well, Bellevue, just across the lake), a fantastic meeting with well over 800 attendees. It was good to meet some new folk as well as catch up with some industry contacts and old friends.

One of the topics which came up for discussion was the activities of the Open-IX association. This is a group which exists to promote fairness and open competition between Internet Exchange and Co-location operators in the US, and thus improve the competitiveness of the market for the users of those services, such as ISPs and content providers.

It was originally set-up to address what was something of a market failure and a desire by a number of US network operators to encourage organisations that run Exchange facilities (such as Equinix) to have more transparent dealings with their customer base, such as fair pricing and basic expectations of service level. This is something that is more common in Europe, where a large majority of Internet Exchanges are run as non-profits, owned and steered by their participant communities.

To do this, the Open-IX Association don’t actually plan to own or operate exchanges, but instead act as a certification body, developing a set of basic standards for exchange companies to work to. It’s somewhat succeeded in it’s initial goals of correcting the market failure. New IXP entrants in the shape of the three large European IXPs have entered the North American market, and co-location operators who were previously less active in the interconnection market have become more engaged.

So, one of the questions asked is what next for Open-IX?

(Indeed, my former boss, LINX CEO John Souter even ventured to suggest it’s “served it’s purpose” and could be wound up.)

There has been questions from some smaller IXPs, they can’t meet all the criteria laid down in the OIX-1 standard (and possibly don’t wish to or have means of doing so). Does this some how make them a “less worthy” second-class IXP, despite the fact that they serve their own communities perfectly well?

In particular, both the Seattle Internet Exchange and Toronto Internet Exchange currently can’t comply with OIX-1, but at the same time it’s not important for them to do so. The difference being these are member-driven exchanges, more along the lines of the European model. Their members don’t require them to provide the services which would allow the organisations to confirm to OIX-1.

I don’t think anyone would venture to suggest that the SIX or TorIX are in some way “second class” though, right? They are both well run, have plenty of participants on the exchange fabric, and respected in the IX community.

This is a key difference between these exchanges and commercial operations such as Equinix: The member-driven IXPs such as SIX and TorIX don’t need an Open-IX to set standards for them. Those local communities set their own standards, and it’s worked for them so far.

And maybe that’s where the opportunity lies for Open-IX: To act like this “conscience” for the more commercial operators, in the same way as the members steer the non-profits?