Uncharted Territories:

A Decade of AMS-IX Marketing

In 2003, AMS-IX was growing rapidly and marketing needed to be taken to the next professional level. Job Witteman approached Cara Mascini, with whom he had worked at France Telecom in the mid-nineties, to tackle this. Throughout their co-operation, she was responsible for data product management. Later, they introduced the first Triple Play product for UPC together, winning an innovation award in the process.

“During my first term at AMS-IX, I was the only marketing person and looked after everything: websites, product development, communications, PR, customer relationship management, you name it. My first project focused on professionalising our appearance, starting with the logo. Many colleagues didn’t see the need, but the final logo was democratically chosen, which is typical of the culture within AMS-IX at the time.”

AMS-IX was previously well-known in the tech community, but not to members’ commercial departments. This changed as a result of setting up of an affiliate program - mainly a contractual partner solution. This was the first major commercial AMS-IX project and focused on resales.

From supplier to business partner

“We became much more of a business partner than a supplier. I believe that is also part of our success: we look beyond the technical perspective and consider the needs of our reselling partners as well. This mindset paid off years later, with the introduction of the MPLS / VPLS platform (2009), as it helped shape this product. We were aware that we needed to take the commercial possibilities into account, too. No other exchange had ever done anything like this.”

It soon became clear that growth of AMS-IX was primarily being driven by demand from abroad. New ways of reaching potential members were needed, particularly in Asia. More time had to be invested in developing the commercial relationship. Moreover, parties outside Europe were less familiar with the concept of 'public peering’.

As a result of an increasingly commercial focus, a member relations department was set up in 2005/2006, which initially combined administration (contract management, etc.) and commerce (event visits). A sales department was started up in 2008. Service management was added a few years later, as well as a marketing assistant and a PR specialist. “Overall, my team went from 0.8 FTE to 13 people in 10 years.”

Soaring growth

Until 2010, average annual growth was around 30 to 40 new connection requests (applications). In 2010, close to 70 new connection requests were registered; in 2011 this grew to 100 new applications. 2011 saw a great deal of technological and organisational innovation. The completed MPLS / VPLS platform allowed AMS-IX to build a robust partner product program: a real innovation in terms of market structure, which makes it much easier for resellers to ‘buy bulk’, rebrand and repackage capacity and provide new services. The threshold for parties to connect has been lowered and the number of connected parties has shot up.

“Around 2011 we introduced many new services based on the MPLS / VPLS platform: 100GE ports, SLA (Service Level Agreement) and the Inter-IPX service, an open interconnect solution. However, SLA contracts never really took off for the simple reason that the quality of our service is so high that there was no real need for additional agreements. The same service was integrated into Inter-IPX and as such was taken up more readily. It took some time for the services to become successful. 100GE and Inter-IPX only really took off last year. Because we were so early we really needed to develop the market.”

Crossing borders

2013 saw further international growth, increased visibility and a changing market for AMS-IX. “We have always been increasingly involving members in our thought processes and choices. However, in 2013 we also began to focus on stakeholders and developing strategy and internal organisation.

AMS-IX is constantly working at finding the right balance in the organisation. Overall, the culture of AMS-IX can be regarded as a truly pioneering. This innovative, progressive culture must be maintained, whilst the organisation also wishes to remain flexible. Recently, the distinctive values of AMS-IX have been mapped extensively, along with ways of bringing these increasingly to the fore within a growing organisation.

“We have always kept working on new things and we have many business ambitions, which we have always managed to reconcile with the principles of AMS-IX as a neutral, non-profit, independent organisation. Today, AMS-IX is a household name, frequently consulted by governmental bodies such as the Amsterdam Economic Board and Ministry of Economic Affairs. King Willem Alexander and Minister Kamp have visited AMS-IX, and I’ve been asked to give expert testimonial during a parliamentary inquest. However, we’re also making a name for ourselves around the world. Internationally, our role has developed and we’re receiving much more attention. Therefore, clear communication with members and external parties about the steps we are taking and our role as an Internet exchange will be an important focal point in the coming years.”

Cara Mascini was Chief Marketing Officer at AMS-IX for 10 years. In the beginning of 2014 she left AMS-IX to become Director Product & Innovation at Ziggo