With high traffic comes great responsibility; How an internet exchange operator successfully manages continuously growing data traffic

At the latest since the spread of the global Covid-19 pandemic, people have become more and more dependent on digital services and have come to rely on them, in both their private and professional lives. Digitalisation is picking up speed faster than expected. On the front lines of accelerated digitalisation, internet exchanges, as part of the critical internet infrastructure, face the challenge of a fast, secure and smooth interconnection of thousands of networks.

Coronavirus pandemic as a driver of digitalisation

The past year was quite extraordinary for everyone. Never before, as companies, the entire economy and even private individuals, have we been exposed to a truly global pandemic. The fact that the pandemic is a driver of digitalisation became apparent early on. In 2020, India enjoyed a strong rise in Internet usage, which hit the peaks when recorded at internet exchanges. Data traffic indicated increases in all areas, especially in the home working environment through collaboration tools such as Teams, VPN use or video conferencing as well as entertainment options such as online and cloud gaming and streaming.

Now, the virus, with its consequences of a changed culture of work and leisure, is not the only component causing data traffic to skyrocket. Growth in streaming services and cloud computing, mobile internet, and real time communication has been ongoing and accelerating for years now. Innovations and advancing automation of technologies such as 5G, Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence along with day to day events also play a decisive role, as do seasonal influences. Seasonally, in most years the internet experiences a slow down during the summer months  but not in the extraordinary year of 2020. In fact, at DE-CIX Mumbai, total customer bandwidth grew by 75 per cent as a result of both new customers and existing customers ordering upgrades. This brought the total connected customer bandwidth to close to 3000 Gigabits, or three Terabits, customers of the exchange grew by 53 per cent to 280 and there was an increase of 67 per cent in the number of 100GE ports sold, reflecting customer needs for greater bandwidths. This is evidence to the fact that during the Covid-19 pandemic, growth in the use of digital applications and Internet services continued unabated.

Increased demand: Interconnection available at any time

Data traffic is growing and demand for bandwidth is increasing. Managing this ongoing transformation in a way that guarantees a seamless user experience is crucial for both private or business purposes. Internet exchanges are well equipped to meet these challenges; On the one hand, they can immediately upgrade existing customers’ connections, for example, by upgrading a 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) port to a 100GE port. Also, new networks that want to benefit from the advantages of peering, that is a direct connection to and between different networks via an internet exchange can be quickly connected. As a result of the direct connection, data packets reach their destination directly and as quickly as possible, as well as securely, cost effectively and without packet loss.

Cloud connectivity is particularly in demand to enable dedicated access by enterprises to cloud service providers. Ever increasing data volumes and increasingly critical business applications mean that dedicated connections are becoming more and more important. To constantly meet all of these needs, sufficient capacities must be planned. In this way, internet exchanges can ensure fully comprehensive interconnection worldwide at all times. Strategic and proactive plans that ensure sufficient capacities are always available, making certain that these needs are permanently met and that there is full coverage at all times. As soon as the utilisation of the connected bandwidth by networks at internet exchanges reaches 63 per cent, it is common practice that it gets upgraded. This process allows it to ensure full coverage at all times.

High data traffic means growing responsibility

With high traffic comes great responsibility. Due to accelerated digitalisation and the increased demand for interconnection, peering, cloud connectivity and the like, an internet exchange must be continuously prepared for the needs arising from increases in data traffic, not only by connecting new customers every day but also by always providing sufficient capacity for further growth. It is also necessary to look beyond the horizon; Digital technology will continue to evolve rapidly, and only by constantly monitoring developments and planning extensively in advance is it possible to live up to responsibilities encompassing partners and customers, to the end users, and also to the environment.

By Sudhir Kunder, Country Director, DE-CIX India

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