From a pond to a lake: the journey of TPIX

By on 25 Apr 2018

Categories: Tech matters, Community

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Neihu is a northern district of Taipei. Its name means ‘inner lake’, which can be attributed to two large lakes located in the picturesque parks in its boundaries, Bihu and Dahu, as well as it being a flood-prone region.

However, there’s a larger ‘abstract’ lake that Neihu has become known for. Since the earlier 1970s, Neihu has also grown to become the hub (or lake?) of Taipei’s renowned IT industry, with many of Taiwan’s largest technology organizations streaming into the district to set up shop. One such organization is the Taipei Internet eXchange (TPIX).

Established in 2002 by Chief Telecom, TPIX was the city’s first neutral Internet exchange point (IXP) for ISPs and content providers, and has grown to be the largest IX in Taiwan.

William Lu, Assistant Vice President at Chief Telecom, has managed TPIX since 2005 and says that in its earlier years, TPIX was far from the size it is today.

“It wasn’t until 2005, when we attracted a Yahoo cache, that other ISPs were interested in connecting to it,” remembers William. “That said, it wasn’t like we were actively promoting people to connect to it either — we didn’t fully understand the importance and benefits for us [Chief] to actively promote it.”

This changed in 2013 when Google, Microsoft and Facebook all became members and set up caches. William said that interest in connecting to TPIX started to increase and as a result, they started to manage it more seriously.

“We started to attend peering conference[s] where we would talk with other IXPs in the region about their challenges, particularly how they manage and grow their membership,” says William.

“Our biggest perceived challenge had always been trying to attract the three largest ISPs — HiNET, Taiwan Mobile and NCIC – as members. However, as competition has started to broaden the market share of the big ISPs, we came to realize that connecting everyone else is just as (maybe more so) important.”

Another challenge that TPIX has had to overcome is the need to strike a balance between the priorities of its parent organization — Chunghwa Telecom, which oversees Chief Telecom and its sister company HiNet — and being a carrier neutral organization.

Read about the history of HiNet

“There’s been some pressure from above [Chunghwa Telecom] over the years, but we have been, and will continue to be, a neutral open exchange for any organization to connect to because we believe making the market bigger is always better than protecting prices,” explains William.

“One of the purposes of an IX is to lower Internet peering costs by offering an integrated platform, which, in turn, lowers transit prices and also lowers ‘paid peering’ prices. Lower costs can help Taiwan’s e-businesses grow and compete with global players.”

Read Taiwan’s peering community in the spotlight

Having already attracted more than 40 members, and recently surpassed 100G traffic, William says that TPIX is still committed to growing its membership and improving its service.

“We’ve just completed a 100G port expansion, which will be able to soundly handle the growing traffic we expect the IX to handle in the next 10 to 15 years.”

Lessons for other IXPs

William highlights three main lessons that start-up IXPs can learn from TPIX:

  1. Establish your IXP where it is easy to access: The Chief Telecom Taipei LY Building was already the most popular neutral Internet data centre service provider in Taiwan. Not only did this mean that a large number of ISPs and ICPs had already run a connection to the building — members only pay a port charge if they are already connected to the building — but the premises also had optimal facilities (backup power, environmental management, security, and 24-hour access).

  1. Be neutral: Chief has and continues to be a neutral carrier and promotes carrier neutrality within the industry in Taiwan. This reputation helps a lot when we invite new members to join TPIX.
  2. Broaden your membership: TPIX was once described as a men’s club; because only large content providers were its only members. Just because you have Google and Facebook as members doesn’t mean you can expect everyone to start joining. We’ve worked hard to attract ISPs, cellular carriers and cable Internet provides to join TPIX. As we’ve broadened our membership, we’ve been able to invite more content providers too. The lesson is that working on broadening your membership base will create a positive loop and ultimately help your IXP grow.
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