“In 2000, I was visiting Amsterdam, with no plans to remain there. I had just sold my team building and kayaking company in Melbourne, Australia and was staying with a friend who worked for a large Internet company, and I remember saying to him: “I wouldn’t mind getting into this Internet thing. I know nothing about it, but it looks cool”. A few days later my friend introduced me to Job Witteman, who invited me to apply for a potential position at AMS-IX. I saw Job a few days later and he asked me what I could do. I replied: “Nothing, but I’m a fast learner”! Job offered me a position with AMS-IX. In the beginning my tasks included updating one of the first websites, automating application forms and office security.”
At the time only four people worked at AMS-IX. In Serge’s first week, his colleagues attended an event and left him as the only person in the office. “They had told me nobody ever called so I would have nothing to worry about. Of course, the phone did ring. It was the first person ever to have been disconnected from AMS-IX, asking me why their port was down. I didn’t even know what a port was. I told them I would check and call back straight away. Of course, I could not reach anyone, so I got the client to transfer money straight away and send me proof of payment I could use to authorise SURFnet to reconnect.”
“I was in a fortunate position and got to see the staff, offices and AMS-IX grow from the start. I remember when AMS-IX hit 1GE of peak traffic, very exciting at the time. Job was a great boss to work for. AMS-IX felt like a little family, not like a big corporation. AMS-IX really offered me a big opportunity to develop without limitations. You see that approach reflected throughout AMS-IX, which offers small companies a similar opportunity. The exchange can help them grow. AMS-IX allows opportunities to staff, to people, but most importantly to their members. My advice for the future would be: never change the unique attitude that has always been part of AMS-IX.”
The beginning of Euro-IX
One day, after a RIPE-meeting, Job told Serge that a group of IXPs were thinking of setting up an organisation which would function as a portal, or a ‘one-stop-shop’, for people looking for an IXP. Back then, there were only a handful of major IXPs, such as LINX, AMS-IX, DE-CIX and BNIX. One day, they all met at AMS-IX to discuss this idea. Serge happened to be present, created their website, and became increasingly involved.
“Originally, the European Internet Exchange Association, or Euro-IX, was a club for a few like-minded IXPs that wanted to share information about their statistics and so on. They also wanted to act as a portal for parties that wanted to know more about joining an IXP. I became the matchmaker within Euro-IX, bringing smaller IXPs with particular growing pains or issues in contact with larger IXPs. Eventually, we started organising ‘Euro-IX forums’, which offered a chance to network and share experiences.”
Job Witteman, who became the Secretary on the Executive Board of Euro-IX, adds: “We decided it was vital to explain to the world exactly what an Internet exchange was and professionalise the sector together. Founding Euro-IX was an important step, allowing us to communicate and share ideas and best practices, even though we’re competitors. At the Global Peering Forum and European Peering Forum, our customers get to meet each other, which hugely stimulates business amongst them. We have become good at community building and social engineering, an aspect often overlooked by ICT managers.”
”In the early days things seem to go well between the three largest IXPs, but for a time they seemed to be jostling for the number one position”, Serge continues. “They began to disagree on certain approaches to business. For me, that could be awkward: AMS-IX was paying my wages, but I was the Secretary General of Euro-IX with board members from all three exchanges. Fortunately, I managed to stay neutral.”
Now looking from the outside, how does Serge now see Euro-IX? “Euro-IX has really made a name for itself and is now recognised all over the world. For Bijal Sanghani who took over from me it must have been tough, but she is doing a fantastic job. I’m seeing the name Euro-IX more than ever before! I think it can be seen as positive that Euro-IX is moving out of AMS-IX and becoming an independent entity. Moreover, it is now big enough to stand on its own feet, with over 75 members and 12 years of experience in the field.”
Serge’s biggest concern for the future is how the Internet will be regulated and who is going to regulate it. “Who knows what the Internet will look like in the next five to ten years. At the RIPE NCC we are continually defending the already successful multi-stakeholder, bottom-up approach for Internet governance.”
“Today, the speed of connectivity keeps on increasing. Response times when loading websites are amazing. There’s no doubt that IXPs have played a huge role in that. Keeping local Internet traffic local is a fantastic concept. AMS-IX is really one of the most important IXPs in the world and Amsterdam is one of the most important cities in the world. AMS-IX has put Amsterdam on the map as far as the Internet concerned. It is one of the global Internet hotspots.”
Serge Radovcic began his Internet career as a Project Manager at AMS-IX in 2000. Serge was also involved in the founding of Euro-IX, the European Internet Exchange Association, and eventually became its first Secretary General.