From Low Profile to Highly Visible

The success of AMS-IX is partly the result of staying in the lead from a technological point of view, as well as being one of the first parties capable of managing large-scale traffic, says Simon Hania. In his view, AMS-IX has always been a meeting place for networks, but increasingly it is becoming a meeting place for people and ideas. AMS-IX continues to prove its worth as a manageable, sizeable and high-quality exchange that removes barriers to Internet growth.

Around 2006, during Simon’s board membership, keeping up with rapid growth was high on the agenda. “At the time, nobody knew how fast Internet growth would be, but AMS-IX wanted to guarantee levels of service and continuity, and were less interested in making a profit. By offloading traffic at the core through direct connections between parties, the AMS-IX technical team managed to keep up with growth. Commercial exchanges would never stimulate such private peerings, but AMS-IX did, as this was in the members’ best interests. We were cautious not to expand to other data centres in a way that would indirectly compete with the activities of our own members.”

Moving towards port capacity higher than the available 10GE was also a way of dealing with growth. “They were stepping up from the 10GE ports and Henk told us we really had to push hardware manufacturers for 100GE - even though we could only potentially buy 40GE,” says Simon. “This was challenging, as most companies weren’t seeing demands from enterprise markets for such speeds yet.”

Another item on the agenda was the SLA discussion. “At the time, some international customers did not have the same relationship with an Internet exchange as some Dutch AMS-IX members had. For this international group, an Internet exchange was the way to obtain cheap connectivity. If they would be able to vote was not of importance to them. They requested contracts with SLAs.”

Guarding boundaries

One of the AMS-IX board’s main tasks is guarding the financial and geographical boundaries within which the exchange operates, in Simon’s opinion. Today, however, both the board and the company also should be fully aware of their social responsibility and public role. Particularly in relation to topics such as vital infrastructure and the NSA.

“Previously, AMS-IX consciously kept a low profile and the board took care of financial and organisational continuity. I doubt any member ever mentioned AMS-IX in the corporate boardroom, with the possible exception of SURFnet. Engineers themselves arranged peering, while minimising purchase or marketing department involvement. At the AMS-IX general meetings, for example, we discussed upcoming technology developments with them at length.”

“Because of AMS-IX’s increased visibility, it is now of importance that AMS-IX keeps educating stakeholders and other parties about how the Internet works. On the other hand, technicians, who do not need to be taught about the Internet, need to be informed about the status of issues from a legal and public governance perspective, for example.”

Security and privacy

According to Simon Hania, the main problem with security nowadays lies in the vast number of connected devices, from weighing scales to PlayStations with embedded software. In many cases, this software will never be updated, and the source code is no longer known. This presents a security exploitation risk. Creating dedicated, separate, secured channels for certain functions would be much safer than connecting everything to the Internet directly. Preventing downtime due to DDoS-attacks, for example, is another issue.

Besides security, privacy is an important point of discussion inside and outside the Internet community. “In discussions about NSA/PRISM, we often hear people refer to AMS-IX as an ideal spot for tapping data - which it isn’t. We had a similar situation around 2000 when Dutch ISPs were obliged to implement lawful interception capabilities. Many people seem to equate ‘privacy’ with ‘secrecy’, especially those from the US and the tech community. However, the key point is: what might someone do with the information they can access?”

In contrast to the decentralisation model of the Internet, Simon sees power positions being formed on the Internet, strengthened by the ‘Internet of Things’. “The business model of Google, Facebook and others is to collect as much data as possible in support of their bottom line. Even though Europe is making attempts to improve privacy and Internet legislation, many organisations are simply ignoring this, and taking fines in their stride. However, diminishing faith in the Internet’s security could lead some people to turn away from it. AMS-IX can play a major role in developing and implementing initiatives that aim to make the net safe and secure.”

Today, Simon is delighted to see activities which he helped start up, such as the reseller programme and the expansion in Curaçao, continuing to grow and become successful.

Simon Hania took part in the AMS-IX board from 2006 to 2008.
During this period he was a CTO/Manager Technology & Development at pioneering provider XS4All. In 2008, he moved to TomTom as Senior VP Dynamic Content & Publishing and also took on the role of Corporate Privacy Officer.