INEX - Internet Neutral Exchange
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INEX - Internet Neutral Exchange
INEX - Internet Neutral Exchange

History of INEX

In May 1996, four companies from the fledgling Irish Internet industry came together to create an Internet exchange point to serve the Irish IP community in Dublin. INEX, the Internet Neutral Exchange, was formally incorporated in September 1996 as a company limited by guarantee, and was registered at the Companies Office in Dublin.

Using a 3Com Etherlink III 10Mb hub, INEX went live at Cara Computer's data centre in the Galileo Building on Fenian Street, Dublin on April 22, 1997 when HEAnet connected a 512K leased line to the hub. This roll-out finally provided its founder members, EUnet Ireland (now part of BT Ireland), HEAnet (remains a member), Indigo (now part of eircom) and Telecom Internet (also part of eircom) with huge performance increases and cost savings. The 3Com hub was soon replaced with a Cisco Catalyst 2908 switch, and this was superseded by a Cisco C2924 switch in 1999.

By today's standards, international Internet connectivity at the time was extremely expensive and the speed of access was cripplingly low. The fastest ISP at the time had less bandwidth than the average business DSL consumer has today, but paid dearly for it. While wholesale costs for IP connectivity can now be found for as low as €10 per megabit per month, in Ireland at the time, it was not unusual to pay tens of thousands of pounds per megabit per month. It was clear to all the members of the new organisation that their investment would pay for itself very quickly while providing their customers with a much better quality of service.

INEX was not the first attempt at setting up an IP exchange point in Dublin; a previous attempt led to the formation of DINX, the Dublin Internet Exchange. However, competitively priced co-location space proved to be problematic at the time, and when two participating ISPs suggested hosting the exchange point in their own data centre as a compromise, several other ISPs withdrew from negotiations, as this would have put them at a significant competitive disadvantage.

With this hindsight, INEX was instituted with neutrality at its core. Its corporate Memorandum and Articles had a formal legal structure and majority voting. No member was more privileged than any other, and strict non-competition clauses were put into the co-location contract to ensure that the DINX failure would not be repeated.

In 2000, Cara announced their intention to move premises and INEX took the initiative to issue a tender for a new co-location contract. After an evaluation of a number of responses, the contract was awarded to Data Electronics Group at their facility in Ballycoolin. As the importance of the exchange to its members was increasing, INEX invested in dual Cisco 3500XL switches, which would, for the first time, provide full resilience to the members in the case of equipment failure.

In 2001, Data Electronics Group acquired the former InFlow building in Kilcarbery Park in Clondalkin and INEX moved to this facility where exchange switches are still located. INEX took the opportunity at this time to outsource technical management of the exchange to Nick Hilliard and Niall Murphy under the auspices of Network Ability Ltd. Nick is now Head of Operations at INEX.

In May 2003, INEX rolled out IPv6 support, enabling members to peer IPv6 natively over the exchange for the first time.

In 2004, members were showing increasing interest in gigabit connectivity, and it became clear that the organisation's Cisco 3500 switches had reached the end of their useful life. Following a tender process, INEX purchased two new Cisco 6500 switches which were installed at INEX in Data Electronics Group in August and October of that year.

2004 continued to be a year of change, where INEX moved from being a voluntary member-run organisation to employing the professional management skills of Barry Rhodes as General Manager. As one of his first projects, Barry began discussions with the IDA, the organisation that encourages inward investment in Ireland from overseas companies. The IDA was eager to see the development of an international class Internet exchange in Ireland in order to meet the needs of the Internet and technology companies setting up here. Following lengthy discussions with the IDA, the members of the exchange and other interested parties, the IDA provided a loan facility to the exchange in order to fund the capital expansion and marketing of the exchange.

This investment provided the means to expand the exchange to a second site and employ Eileen Gallagher to handle the Marketing and Membership Development. An RFT for the second additional site had been issued in May 2004. Following a review of the proposals, members selected the TeleCity facility in Citywest and the site went live in March 2005 with two resiliently-configured Cisco 6500s connected to the DEG point of presence using a dark fibre ring provided by Aurora Telecom.

The second INEX facility at TeleCity was launched by the Minister for Communications, Noel Dempsey T.D. on 4th April 2005.

May 2005 saw Mike Norris of HEAnet resign as Chairman of INEX, a position he had held since the company's inception. Following Mike's resignation, Fachtna Mylod, who served as the vice-chair, was elected Chairman by the committee. In his eight years as Chairman, Mike, who remains a member of the INEX committee, had an enormous influence on the creation and successful development of INEX and his dedication to maintaining best practice and embracing neutrality has given the exchange its excellent foundation.

The Associate Membership category was announced in October 2005 to address the needs of those organisations that do not have IP traffic to peer at the exchange but who are eager to become part of the increasingly important community that INEX represents.

Further technical developments in late 2005 led to the implementation of multicast at the exchange following on from a multicast trial with HEAnet and Magnet Networks. This development paves the way for high quality TV and video content over the Internet and provides an excellent opportunity for the broadcast community to utilise the Internet as a delivery platform.

2006 saw two large-scale developments at the exchange.  WDM equipment was installed to provide multiple gigabit network access between INEX's points of presence, and INEX developed a second peering LAN, which was rolled out in both DEG and Telecity.  These network developments were implemented in order to increase end-user speed reliability by providing independent layer 2 connectivity between INEX members. 

INEX upgraded to 10G connectivity in 2007, and deployed a mixed CWDM and DWDM core network upgrade to support these access speeds.

The exchange completed a rollout into the Interxion DUB1 facility in 2009, expanding its physical foot-print in order to service its member's requirements outside its existing points of presence.  Following a comprehensive technical evaluation, INEX selected Brocade as Ethernet switching equipment vendor for this installation.  In early 2010, INEX opened a point of presence at the new Interxion DUB2 colocation facility in Park West, bringing its PoP count to four. 

Throughout its existence, INEX has maintained its desired position of being ahead of the curve in terms of technology deployment, development and service delivery. INEX's commitment is to see that this position is maintained.

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