Since its launch in October 20, 2009 Africa.INX has taken the South African ISP industry by storm – offering connectivity to service providers at significantly reduced rates, on an internationally recognised, best practice, fully redundant network.
By providing a lower cost to entry into the South African ISP industry, Africa.INX, South Africa’s first and only independent network exchange, is effectively breaking the stranglehold which incumbent telco operators have traditionally held over the market. The company, set to go live on the 1st of March 2010, will usher in a new era of highly competitive connectivity rates, independence and freedom of choice for its clients, which will revolutionise the local ISP industry.
With a number of local players already onboard and the establishment of a fully redundant network running to schedule, Eduard du Plessis, Africa.INX, CEO, confidently states that: “Africa.INX will, without doubt, go live on the 1st of March 2010.”
The company has partnered with a number of service partners, including Sat3, Seacom, Terako and various international tier one ISPs to ensure that South African and international clients alike, receive an unrivalled, world-class carrier service. Africa.INX has employed Juniper standards and technology across the board with the development of its network, and has redundancy systems in place for both North, South and East, West system failures – a feat, which until very recently, had not been accomplished even by South African tier one ISPs.
The Africa.INX network – extremely robust.
In order to attain full compliance with international ISP provider standards Africa.INX has developed a fully redundant network. This has been achieved by establishing dual connections into London, using both the Sat3 and Seacom submarine fibre optic cable systems. The network terminates into two separate data centres which in turn utilise two individual data nodes. From the data nodes, the network connects into two different tier one service providers.
On South African shores the system is just as comprehensive. Du Plessis explains: “Africa.INX has established two separate data nodes in both of the major business centres in South Africa – namely Johannesburg and Cape Town. These nodes are connected to metro Ethernet rings. As a result of the network ring topology, we have created fully redundant systems. This means that if a break occurs anywhere on the network ring, connectivity will not be lost. The company also provides close proximity last mile access for its customers, which simplifies the process of establishing a cost-effective link into the network. Above and beyond the stipulated criteria within our initial rollout plan, we have also established data nodes in both Port Elizabeth and Durban. Durban is redundantly connected into two separate data nodes located in Johannesburg, while a similar system has been employed to redundantly connect Port Elizabeth into the Cape Town system.”
Juniper standards and NNI for enhanced compatibility and expansion
Africa.INX has established various NNIs (Network to Network Interfaces) in London which allow other networks to expand throughout the developed world. In turn, the Africa.INX network attains a similar level of coverage and can effectively spread into almost any country in the world. According to du Plessis these NNIs have been developed to accepted industry best practices. “Without the implementation of best practices and the utilization of end to end Juniper technology, we would not have been able to partner with leading international carriers.
“In certain network development scenarios you’ll find networks being developed by Cisco trained technicians using Juniper technology or vice versa, to cut costs. This often results in an unstable system with unacceptable losses in connectivity. Our system, has for the most part, been developed by Juniper using Juniper technology. As a result, our network is 100 percent compliant with Juniper standards and is fully endorsed by the company.”
Africa.INX is utilising two industry standards on its network – MPLS and VPLS. By running an MPLS layer across the network, the company is able to run both Internet and private network services across the same shared network. Africa.INX’s VPLS standard is an accredited Juniper standard, which customers experience as an end to end switch network. This simplifies ease of use and connection for the end user.
Africa.INX has gone to great lengths to ensure that its network is as easy to use as possible for its end users. The company is using a routing protocol across the switched fabric layer and a part PDM fabric layer to achieve simplicity. “We have implemented multiple complex technologies which require a high level of skill to run effectively in the background. Effectively these measures ensure that our clients do not have to undertake any technical steps to achieve connectivity. All that an ISP needs to do to achieve connectivity is plug into our network.”
Africa.INX has made the connection process straightforward in order to allow international ISPs to utilise a VPOP service. This allows the international ISPs to establish a presence within the country without having to install any infrastructure. By facilitating this process, Africa.INX allows international ISPs to connect directly to their South African customers through the Africa .INX network. This negates the need for hard routing and highly technical skills from the side of the international ISPs and improves the flow of international commerce. “The next generation of networks is going in this direction, and we are pleased to say that the Africa.INX is fully compliant with next generation standards,” says du Plessis.
Data co-location for freedom of choice
In addition to establishing partnerships with international carriers, Africa.INX has signed a partner agreement with Teraco – South Africa’s first international standards based data centre. This partnership has significant ramifications for international and local consumers alike. Du Plessis explains: “In South Africa our data centres are traditionally owned and controlled by the ISPs which they serve. At the moment there is not a single ISP in the country which will allow you to utilise its data centre without using its carrier service. By doing this, carriers are effectively holding their clients’ servers, applications and data hostage to their carrier service.
“We have found that international companies would rather develop their own data centres to avoid this type of unethical lock-in. With the establishment of Teraco, a new option is available to our clients. Teraco operates as a co-location centre, allowing numerous carriers into the data centre. This gives clients complete freedom of choice when it comes to selecting a carrier and a network. When clients select data centres they make the decision based on the standards which the centre employs and where it is located in the world. As Teraco operates independently of ISPs it can focus all of its energy and resources on developing a world class data centre. The Teraco data centre is built and operated to global best practice standards and, as a result, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better data centre in the country. This kind of flexibility is what the international market is looking for and this is the service we are supplying.”