Africa Data Centres in partnership with Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN), and Workonline Communications Group on Friday organized an exclusive peering workshop for industry stakeholders.
The workshop which also featured a data center tour, served as an opportunity to discuss opportunities within the data centre industry
Amongst some of the stakeholders who delivered talks at the workshop include Muhammed Rudman, MD/CEO, IXPN; Benjamin Deveaux, Head of Business Development, Workonline Communications Group; Wole Abu, CEO, Liquid Intelligent Technologies Nigeria, and Dr. Krish Ranganath, Regional Executive, Africa Data Centres.
These experts highlighted amongst other things the significance of IXPs, collaborative efforts, and stakeholder engagement in enhancing Africa’s Internet connectivity, reducing costs, and promoting local data domestication.
Below is the summary of what was discussed.
Peering in Carrier and Cloud-Neutral Data Centres
They agreed that Internet exchange points (IXPs) play a vital role in enhancing connections for individuals, organizations, and economies on the Internet.
In developed countries, most major cities have one or more IXPs. As data traverses the Internet, it often needs to be redirected between different networks. This means that traffic from one network has to transition to another network, which may be owned and operated by a different entity.
IXPs facilitate this data exchange process through a practice known as “peering.” Peering allows networks to directly exchange customer traffic with each other, eliminating the need to rely on a third-party service provider to transmit the data across the Internet.
By leveraging peering at IXPs, networks can efficiently hand off traffic between their respective networks, resulting in cost savings by bypassing the expense of engaging a third party to carry the data over the Internet.
Overall, peering in the carrier and cloud-neutral data centers offers cost efficiency, improved performance, enhanced reliability, greater control, local traffic exchange, content delivery optimization, and a collaborative environment for innovation.
These advantages contribute to the growth and stability of the Internet, benefiting both organizations and end-users.
Enhancing Local Internet Connectivity
IXPs play a critical role in optimizing network traffic and addressing various challenges that arise when data switches between networks.
Without IXPs, traffic would have to rely on intermediary networks or transit providers to transport data from its source to its destination, resulting in significant latency.
Moreover, the number of available routes for data would be limited, and the ability to switch to the fastest network at any given time would be compromised in the event of issues with the transit provider’s network, such as traffic surges, slow connections, or packet loss.
Peering through internet exchanges effectively tackles these challenges by ensuring the use of the shortest possible route to reach a specific destination. It keeps traffic local, thereby improving performance and enabling faster connections between networks. This facilitates high-speed data transfer, reduces latency, increases bandwidth, and enhances fault tolerance.
In the context of Africa, many countries have had to rely on paying international carriers to handle the exchange of “local” traffic between African nations.
This approach has proven to be expensive and inefficient. To establish an efficient and functional Internet, traffic must stay as local as possible, aligning with data residency regulations and keeping Internet costs low.
By establishing and promoting IXPs in Africa, countries can retain local traffic within their borders, ensuring compliance with data residency requirements, reducing dependence on international carriers, and enhancing the efficiency and affordability of the Internet within the continent.
African Efforts to Expand IXPs and Boost Internet Connectivity
Numerous initiatives have emerged to tackle the IXP challenges in Africa. During the Fourteenth Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly, Heads of State and Government of the African Union adopted a declaration pledging to strengthen national programs and regional cooperation for the development and interconnection of broadband infrastructures, as well as the deployment of regional IXPs.
The introduction of the African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) specifically aimed to reduce communication costs, diminish trade financing expenses, and ultimately lower the prices of goods.
Moreover, affordable and accessible bandwidth is expected to fuel regional trade integration, while emerging industries like business process outsourcing (BPO) and call centers are projected to generate employment opportunities, alleviate poverty, and stimulate wealth creation across the continent.
Encouragingly, The Internet Society conducted a comprehensive assessment of both members and non-members of the African IXP Association (Af-IX), including multiple IXPs. As of 2021, over half of Africa’s countries had established IXPs, with six countries boasting multiple exchange points (Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania).
However, it is worth noting that 20 countries in Africa still lacked IXPs, missing out on the benefits they offer.
The report also highlighted disparities in Internet adoption among different regions, despite similar income levels. This discrepancy can be attributed to positive enabling environments in certain countries, which include robust support for the IXP ecosystem.
IXPs have proven to be instrumental in reducing Internet access costs and enhancing the availability of content and services connected to these exchange points.
Consequently, it is evident that optimizing Internet traffic, supporting intra-continental data flows, and creating opportunities for private sector investments in these areas are in the best interests of all African countries.
Collaboration Among Stakeholders
They called for collaboration among stakeholders, as it is vital for the successful domestication of data at a local level. It enables the integration of diverse expertise, facilitates the development of effective governance frameworks, provides necessary resources, promotes knowledge sharing, and ensures inclusive decision-making.
By working together, stakeholders can harness the power of data to drive local development, innovation, and improved decision-making processes.