Internet Exchanges and What They Are Used For

Internet exchanges, usually referred to as IX or IXP, are switching platforms where internet carriers are able to exchange traffic with each other. Exchanging traffic over internet exchanges instead of by direct peering, lets carriers join with many networks using only one uplink which reduces the cost and problems of peering; enabling them to take on more relationships even with other smaller carriers whose volume of traffic might be quite low. 

Commercial exchanges

Most of these largest internet exchanges points are for commercial exchanges, where the carriers who are participating pay a fee to the IXP operator – usually dependent on the port speed that is subscribing to. Also, there are “open” internet exchange points where there is no payment or only requires a symbolic fee. 

Small internet exchanges

Internet exchanges that are smaller are naturally only one switch that is located in one data center, their members can then connect directly or through a ‘meet me’ room, while the IXPS that are larger consists of a lot of switches located in various data centers connected to each other by direct fiber routes. These members have the benefit of connecting to peers with members at other locations, without needing to launch their own fiber connections between each other. 

Maps of exchanges

A lot of these internet exchanges publish lists of members, of location as well as statistics of traffic volume on their website. This enables possible members to be able to assess the ROI (return on investment) connecting to the IXP might generate.

Mapping of exchanges

There are companies that handle the mapping of all these exchange points, just like Infrapedia keeps the map of the arteries of the internet overall. Both these companies publish their maps for others to use. 

Bothers me

This brings us to a point that worries me with all these arteries and exchanges being maps for anyone to use. The US and NATO have cautioned that there have been more Russian submarine movement near where our undersea fiber optic cables are, Does this mean that Moscow could conspire to intercept or disrupt critical or sensitive internet communications in the event of a confrontation with the West?