After three days of discussions, the sixth edition of Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) came to a close. This year’s event attracted 232 participants, from 57 countries. The meeting also drew 978 online participants from 77 different countries.
The last day had presentations on technical aspects of starting and running an IXP and the issue of content and its role in growing an IXP.
Starting an IXP
For the new participants coming from countries without IXPs, the main questions usually are; how much does it cost to set up an IXP? And should we wait for the local content to grow to set up an IXP or should we set up an IXP and grow the local content exchange after?
The morning session had a presentation on how to set up an IXP with US$ 1000 budget. The presentation went into details of the equipment and factors such as power and budget allocations. The presentation demonstrated that it was possible to have a functional IXP with the US$ 1000 budget.
What do you need to do?
- Market research
- Build a community
- Build a platform
- Figure out the content providers in the country/region
Role of Content in Growth of IXPs
The role of content in growth of IXP has become a major topic for AfPIF in the last four years. As IXPs continue growing, the issue content and attracting more peers become more apparent.
Google has been involved in AfPIF since 2010 and is considered the most common CDN in African countries. Akamai first presented at AfPIF three years ago and has underlined its commitment to spreading its infrastructure in Africa.
In its presentation, Akamai indicated that it was open to peering at either IXPs or ISP networks, but the main challenge was the cost of international transit, which Akamai leaves to the internal community to decide.
Rwanda, which is running Akamai at the IXP shared its experience; how local peers worked together to sort out the issue of international transit and the increase in capacity at the IXP. The capacity increased from peak of 500Mbps to 1.2Gbps.
After the presentations, there was a discussion whether the issue was locally developed content or locally hosted content. It was clear that local hosting is important, for locally relevant content. For instance, major newspapers in Rwanda are hosted abroad, and therefore contributed to the increase in content, with the Akamai cache.
Why are CDNs shying away from Africa?
There were questions why the CDNs were opting for other markets in US, Europe and Asia; the question was whether Africa lacks the market to make the business case, or that Africa is doomed to be a consumer market.
Both Akamai and Google representatives noted that there lacks the business case in Africa but added that with the pace of growth, it was a matter of time before business caught up. They added that even in other markets, it had taken 20 years for the markets to mature.
How do we reduce barriers to content growth?
- Higher level of trust and collaboration, the rest comes automatically
- Increase locally relevant content hosting
- Increase local skills and training
- Availability of cheaper capacity
- Development of data centers and cloud platforms that can host the content
- Lower local loop pricing, it will remove some of the barriers
- If you don’t have an IXP, then you have no local content to exchange, once you get an IXP, you start thinking of how to improve it.