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QIX: Montreal Internet Exchange. Has it really been four years?

At our April annual general meeting, QIX celebrated a number of milestones, beyond just surviving for four years.
By Allan MacGillivray
Senior Policy Advisor to the President of CIRA

At our April annual general meeting, QIX celebrated a number of milestones, beyond just surviving for four years.

In April I went to Montreal for the annual general meeting of QIX, the Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in Montreal. It was four and a half years ago that I first made this trip.

When I joined CIRA in 2012 our CEO Byron Holland asked me to work with our chief technology officer, Jacques Latour and our colleague Rock Chantigny to help establish new IXPs in Canada. Our first stop on this literal and figurative journey was Montreal. We would later make the same trip to Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Halifax and Moncton but, as the expression goes, one always remembers the first one the best.

There was already a small group in Montreal coalescing around this idea under the straightforward but gentle leadership of Sylvie LaPerrière. Sylvie would go on to be the first and still only chair of QIX when we launched in 2013, as a not-for-profit corporation. I say ‘we’ because I was flattered to be asked to join the QIX board, in that I have limited technical background.

QIX has been great for me and a wonderful experiment in a community-led enterprise. There was already an IXP operating in Montreal in 2012, managed by Réseau d’informations scientifiques du Québec (RISQ), the Quebec research and education network. I will be forever grateful to RISQ’s executive director Michel Vanier, for with our initial attempts to launch an open IXP, many in his place would have sensed competition. But he saw opportunity; the opportunity for Montreal and the region to expand the quality and sophistication of its digital infrastructure. He embraced the idea.

When we launched QIX early in 2013, it was with RISQ as the manager of QIX. But it would be more accurate to say that Michel and RISQ are partners in this great experiment. We kept the existing infrastructure at RISQ and added a second switch just down the street. QIX has no employees and operates with a volunteer board of directors. RISQ manages the day-to-day business of the IXP, including billing, finances etc. To my knowledge, we are the only IXP in Canada that operates with a paid manager.

At our April annual general meeting, QIX celebrated a number of milestones, beyond just surviving for four years. We have 58 members, traffic that peaks at over 50 gigabits per second (Gbps) and we are in the black financially. We also welcomed our first international peer and board member Seth Crimmins from Westelcom, in Northern New York state.

In reviewing our financial statements we paused to thank some of the many members of the growing Canadian IXP community who helped us get going and who continue to do so. We said thank you to and the Toronto IXP, TORIX, for the donation of some equipment, to Cologix for the preferential cross connect rates it gives our members and to my employer, CIRA, who helps with the maintenance costs of the switch. We also gave thanks to Michel Vanier, who is stepping down from RISQ. I think he is proud for what he helped create. And I must confess, I take a bit of pride myself in the small part I have played in getting QIX on its way.

Learn more about Canadian IXPs .

About the author
Allan MacGillivray

Allan provides advice and leadership on Internet governance issues and is active in the ICANN multi-stakeholder Internet governance process.