Byron Holland is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). View bio
Recently, CIRA became a member of the Ottawa Internet Exchange, or OTTIX. Fundamentally, OTTIX is a network bridge between Ottawa-based organizations, including Internet Service Providers (ISPs), universities, large corporations, and government. This network bridge results in local network traffic taking shorter, faster paths between member networks, alleviating congestion on major Internet backbones.
What does this mean for CIRA’s stakeholders?
When it comes to reaching most Canadians, we now have a more direct route on the Internet from our servers to theirs. This could mean the difference between data crossing 10 circuits and 10 devices to crossing just two or three. If your ISP is connected to the OTTIX network, your emails to other members of the network, such as CIRA, will be faster, and members’ websites will load faster – albeit by fractions of a second – on your computer.
The true benefit, however, is that participating networks have more reliability by way of an additional route to the .CA infrastructure. This means that even if huge swaths of the Internet experience a disruption in service, the OTTIX network would experience no disruption whatsoever. And, if there’s a disruption in the OTTIX network, we now have the public Internet as our backup method.
Internet exchanges exist all over the world, and have proven to be integral to a nation’s Internet infrastructure. At a CIRA-hosted cyber-security event in 2008, Bill Woodcock of Packet Clearing House spoke about his participation in the mitigation of the two-week long cyber-attack on Estonia in 2007 by Russia. Woodcock talked about how Internet Exchanges played a critical role in limiting the impact on Estonians’ ability to communicate with each other – while the attacks slowed Estonians’ communication with the outside world, there was little impact on domestic traffic.
We have maintained a similar setup with Canada’s largest exchange, the Toronto Internet Exchange (TORIX), for years. With our new relationship with OTTIX, CIRA is now linked with two of the very few Internet exchanges in Canada – the total number is hard to come by, but most estimates peg the figure at three to five. Other nations around the globe have up to dozens of Internet exchanges. What does this mean for Canada? Simply put, a significant amount of Canadian Internet traffic flows south of the border to the U.S. before reaching its destination in Canada. More exchange points in Canada would ensure that Canadian traffic stays in Canada more of the time, ensuring a safer and more robust network for all Canadians.
The European Internet Exchange have put together a great video that explains Internet exchanges.
How do you feel about Canadian Internet traffic having to flow to the United States?