A dedicated group of volunteers are working to ensure that Halifax is ready to seize the global digital economy.
A dedicated group of volunteers are working to ensure that Halifax is ready to seize opportunities presented by the global digital economy.
In January, the non-profit, volunteer-run Halifax Internet Exchange (HFXIX) signed on one of the world’s leading content delivery providers – Akamai Technologies. Akamai has built its reputation on having a colossal number of servers dotted around the globe, bringing it in close proximity to end users.
The partnership comes a little more than two years after CIRA’s Community Investment Program (CIP) provided funding for HFXIX to purchase its core switching and hosting equipment, part of CIRA’s greater commitment to grow the Canadian IXP ecosystem.
With the Akamai affiliation, institutions peering at HFXIX can now benefit from having a direct, local connection to the most “pervasive, highly-distributed content delivery network” in the world.
Just how pervasive? Akamai has more than 216,000 servers in over 120 countries, connected to more than 1,500 networks around the world, which now includes Halifax and the Canadian IXP network.
Although this is not the first connection by Akamai in Halifax, this is the first connection at the local IXP, which broadens access. By peering at HFXIX users are directly networked with Akamai and all the clients it serves. That includes the world’s top 20 e-commerce sites, one-third of Fortune 500 companies and the top 30 media and entertainment companies across the globe, to name a few.
“When Apple wants to release a new version of their IOS, they send it to Akamai,” explains John Sherwood, president of HFXIX. “When customers download that new version of the IOS, they don’t do it from Apple, they do it from one of Akamai’s nodes.”
For a local business, hundreds of employees could be attempting that update at the same time. For those peering at HFXIX, having a direct, local connection to Akamai means they get that content faster and at a significantly reduced cost.
“By getting the cache close to the end user, you cut down on traffic that has to travel across the Internet,” explains Sherwood. “This results in better performance, better security and lower costs.”
Halifax can thank New Brunswick innovator, F6 Networks, Atlantic Canada’s largest independent fibre telecommunications company, for helping to get Akamai on board at HFXIX. F6 Networks provided the bandwidth to Akamai and signed onto HFXIX, itself, in December – another boon for those looking to maximize their direct local connections in the Maritimes.
“The Halifax Internet Exchange can directly benefit local service providers, school boards, hospitals, major IT companies, governments and financial institutions,” explains Sherwood. “There’s a modest capital cost to get connected to the IXP, but once you’re online there is no cap to the bandwidth.”
Security is a subject that’s top of mind for many people in the Internet world, says Sherwood, with institutions getting increasingly nervous about personal and sensitive data crossing over international borders unnecessarily.
“There is actually fairly strict privacy legislation in Nova Scotia and British Columbia that doesn’t allow personal information to leave the country,” he says. Sherwood notes that despite this legislation, however, the bulk of Canadian data – including personal health and financial information — is forced to travel through the United States, as long as Canadian companies and governments continue to rely on foreign infrastructure.
“By peering at the local exchange point, local traffic stays local,” says Sherwood.
That’s precisely what Canada’s rapidly-expanding network of Internet Exchange Points – including HFXIX — are trying to provide to Canadians. With support from CIRA, many IXPs, still in their infancy, are moving swiftly to get Internet mammoths like Akamai and Google on-board to peer locally. Canadian businesses and institutions that are connected to their local IXP will be able to reduce their costs, reduce latency and offer superior performance to their clients.
As Canadians are downloading ever-more content, health delivery systems move online, and data security hits mainstream headlines almost daily, it makes sense now more than ever to peer locally.
“The traffic flows so much faster through an exchange than it does through transit,” says Sherwood. “This may not be so important with email, but with other stuff it can be. Video conference, voice calls, any video content is impacted by low latency.
“For banks, latency in electronic trading is a big deal – even a few thousandths of a second can affect trade and cost them a lot of money.”
As part of its work to build a better online Canada, CIRA has supported Internet Exchanges across the country. For more on the CIRA’s work in this area, visit stg.cira.ca.