Africa records major increase in domestic bandwidth production

African Internet Exchange Points have recorded a big increase in domestic bandwidth production, as a result of growth in sharing of Google cache, e-government services, local hosting infrastructure and services.

According to Packet Clearing House (PCH), Africa’s domestic bandwidth production grew by 145 percent, from 113Gigabits in April last year to 277 Gigabits in April this year. The number of IXPs also grew from 25 last year to 37 this year, a 48 percent increase.

“There is a general observation of significant traffic increase at IXPs where members have mutually agreed to share Google Cache and other CDN cache traffic; there is also considerable traffic being generated from e-government services, growth of local hosting services supported by the availability of local hosting infrastructure,” said Michuki Mwangi,

One of the fastest growing IXPs in Sub-Sahara Africa is NAPAfrica,. It has three locations in South Africa; Johannesburg  (Est. 2012), Cape Town (Est. 2012) and Durban (Est. 2014). NAP Africa Johannesburg records 20Gbps peak traffic, Cape Town has 5Gbps, while Durban has 100Mbps peaks traffic. Two NAPAfrica IXPs have recorded significant growth within a very short period. On the other hand, the INX operated by the South Africa ISP Association (ISPA) and also hosted in data centers in Johannesburg (JINX est. 1996), Cape Town (CINX est. 2009) and Durban (DINX est. 2012) have equally high traffic at JINX (14Gbps peak) and CINX (3.8Gbps peak) by the regions levels. However, it is of interest to observe that NAPAfrica’s two facilities have achieved higher traffic levels over a shorter time compared to the INX in similar locations.

“NAPAfrica is an IXP located in one of the few carrier neutral data center facilities in Africa operated by Teraco. As a result, NAPAfrica is in a prime location to attract membership from a diverse range of businesses collocated inside the carrier neutral facility. I believe that, the carrier neutral data-center factor has played a significant role in the impressive growth seen at NAPAfrica over a short period,” added Mwangi.

Considering that most carrier neutral CD’s are often served by major operators. It is likely that NAPAfrica’s growth is buoyed by its ability to easily connect and cross connect providers within the data centre and at high speed, without the need for procuring additional links with infrastructure operators.

According to preliminary data from research being conducted by Africa IXP Association, 35 percent of the IXPs charge port fees (monthly/annual) which is considered a global best practice to ensure sustainability of the IXP operation. This position is enforced by the fact that 35% of the IXPs that do not charge are planning to implement fees in the future. If this would be considered it would be safe to say that soon, at least 70% of all the IXPs in region would be self-sustainable and capable of establishing themselves as regional hubs.

The survey also highlighted that majority of the IXPs (55%) have small networks and content friendly peering policies. This policies appear to be in line with the current level of development where most of the IXP members are small networks and are looking to attract content providers. Fifteen percent of the IXPs have bilateral peering which is friendly to large networks, that prefer to have the choice of whom they interconnect with at the IXP. The remaining 30% of the respondent IXPs have less favorable peering policies that enforce peering for all IXP participants. The mandatory peering policies are often favored by startup IXPs to develop the peering culture. These policy tend to be reviewed as the IXP grows and members have a better understanding of the benefits of peering.

AFIX was formed in 2013, to provide an enabling environment for IXP operators and to help IXPs maximise their value, to improve connectivity within the region and increase Internet’s value for all.

Even though the research shows growth and stability in terms of power back up and security in the IXP facilities, many IXPs are struggling to grow the number of networks peering and the capacity exchanged locally.

“To grow their capacity, the African IXP operators need to consider expanding the target market of the IXP membership to include a diverse range of non-traditional members such as banks, government networks, media, academia, research and education networks,” said Mwangi.

With the massive investments in ICT infrastructure, Mwangi says IXPs need to develop strategic partnerships with terrestrial infrastructure and submarine cable operators to provide suitable  ackages for connectivity to the IXP facility. This will serve as an incentive to connect the new diverse range of (local and cross-border) businesses to the IXP and with higher capacity.

Mwangi concluded that the notable growth in traffic exchanged at IXPs is a clear indication of the regions potential and future growth potential is dependent on the stakeholders ability to nature and leverage on the relationships formed within the IXP’s ecosystem.

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Kenyan Domain Loses Bragging Rights

When you think of technology development in East Africa, you think of Nairobi as the hub, the lead city. Internationally, this is the case, the PR and hype we have done is great, it makes Nairobi as the first stop for investors, techprenuers, idlers, graduates, those with companies that have failed elsewhere, venture capitalists and tech writers among others.

Truth is, Nairobi is great place; for both locals and international experts. I am sure travel blogs have listed all these issues, so I will not bore you with the details, i will just bore you with details of other kind 🙂

Last week, I wrote an article on how DNS Security Extension has been implemented in the region. In east Africa, Uganda and Tanzania lead the way, Kenya is nowhere near there. If interested, you can read more about DNSSEC from ISOC and a report by ICANN showing all the country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) that have implemented.

“The DNS is the phone book of the internet, translating names that people can remember into numbers that computer networks require in order to communicate. DNSSEC is a set of security protocols that fix fundamental vulnerabilities in the DNS. 

With DNSSEC, internet users know for sure that their web and email communications reach the server that they intended, and are not hijacked by an attacker to steal personal or confidential information.”- Secure64

DNSSEC became more popular in 2008 when Dan Kaminsky found a vulnerability on the DNS, some ISPs in Kenya were affected, and this improved the level of awareness as well as implementation.

DNSSEC secures against identity theft, online fraud, domain hijacking etc. Remember the time some Kenyan bank websites had been hijacked and were redirecting elsewhere? Imagine if online banking has grown that much in Kenya, the way mobile money has, it would have been a different story.

So what?

Globally, implementation is still slow but it was expected that countries with fewer domains, like the ones in Africa, would be quick to implement but so far, only about five countries have implemented, and two of them are in East Africa.

Just a bit of history, Kenya was the first country in the region to get back its .ke domain, in a process known as redelegation, it was also the first country to set up its domain registry, Brazil was instrumental in training the first registry admin, around 2003 or there a bouts. The other countries set up their registries later.

For the longest time, .ke was involved in training on anything TLD related, if there were continental training; AfNOG, AfTLD etc that related to registry operations or management, most likely Kenic would be involved.

Well, that all changed at some point because when it comes to DNSSEC training, Tanzania is now taking the lead by sending trainer (s) at the continental meetings. This is a good thing, means the region is growing in terms of tech and innovation.

But why is .ke not up there with .ug and .tz?

Kenic had had its issues and you can read more here

To be fair, I spoke to Anthony Wambugu,  Kenic CEO, about three weeks ago and wanted to know the progress they have made with DNSSEC. He promised to send me the info, and I am still holding out for that. Even though you can see the DNSSEC status from the ICANN report, which is done periodic and captures whatever stage it is.

So, for a registry that seemed to have gotten it right so long ago, where did Kenic get overtaken by Uganda and Tanzania in terms of technical progress?

 

 

What are the benefits?

Apart from the benefits covered in the articles above, if the domain registry, (ccTLD) has implemented, it means other domain owners can now start implementing, which will help e-commerce. I must admit that there are other reasons that e-commerce hasn’t picked up and this may help an inch.

If the registry management has DNSSEC trainers, it means training locally is easier and ISPs can organize their own trainings with the help of the registry (Kenic) but this is not the case.

Ideally, the push to implement DNSSEC is led by big ISPs that want to use every avenue to market. But the ISPs or the tech department must also have a clue about global trends.

To assess the level of awareness, you start with Safaricom  the biggest ISP, with $20million invested in a cloud service, the largest Telecoms company in East and Central Africa, (you can insert other titles here).

I got in touch with Thibaud Rerolle, the IT director at Safaricom, to try and understand why Safaricom has not taken any step towards DNSSEC, like other ISPs in Africa, that can at least validate DNSSEC.

Well, let us just say that Safaricom needs to send its techies for those DNSSEC trainings.

Maybe Kenya doesn’t need tech developments to maintain its position as the lead tech destination but as we bask in the glory, its nice to acknowledge that other countries are forging ahead 🙂

 

Google supports Africa interconnection efforts

Google has partnered with the Internet Society to develop and improve Internet Exchange Point (IXP) activities in emerging markets.

Google, through its philanthropic arm- Google.org – has provided a grant that is expected to amplify ISOC’sprevious efforts in emerging markets such as Africa and establish a methodology to assess IXPs, train people to operate the IXPs, as well as build a more robust local Internet infrastructure.

“With this support to extend IXP development and improve projects, the internet society can bring core Internet infrastructure to underserved countries and assist in building key human and governance capabilities; this will also help the Internet Society achieve its mission to ensure the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of people everywhere,” said Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO of the Internet Society.

In the last few year, Google has been active in Africa, helping in setting up content generation projects, Internet connectivity and set up of Google cache server at ISPs in Africa. Google has also been supporting the Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum, an annul meeting of ISPs, network, content providers and governments interested in lowering connectivity costs in Africa and removing interconnection barriers between countries. The forum is organized by ISOC. 

“The Internet Society has proved to be one of the most effective institutions in the Internet community. I am confident that they will apply their grant wisely to extend their work to increase Internet access for everyone, including those in emerging markets,” said Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.

IXPs allow ISPs and other network operators to exchange traffic locally at cost effective rates. This helps lower end-user costs, speed-up transmissions, increase Internet performance, and decrease international Internet connectivity costs.  Google.org, is a team within Google inc focused on social impact, develops and supports technology solutions that can address global challenges, such as expanding Internet access to the seven billion people in the world.

The Internet Society is already working on another project with the African Union, to establish IXPs where none exist.

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Today is World IPv6 day

In January, it was announced that the first generation of internet addresses, commonly known as Internet Protocol version 4 was depleted. Globally, organizations can only use the new generation- IP version 6. But in Africa, we still had a block of IPv4 remaining and will continue using until its fully depleted and I wrote an article to that effect.

The next big news has been in the lead-up to today- World IPv6 day. Today, major content providers like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Akamai and hardware manufacturers will offer IPv6 only services and test how the internet infrastructure will behave for the next 24 hours. In Africa, this test flight will be led mainly by mobile services providers who by default have become major content carriers. You can read more about it here.

While the internet will not be interrupted for many running on IPv4, am sure we are all wondering whats the fuss is all about if there will be no effects. You can read 10 things to know about IPv6 here.

Yes, Safaricom and MTN Business say that their core network is IPv6 ready, but is it available to end users? You can test if you are on IPv6 or not by clicking here.

The expectation was that Africa would take up IPv6 faster than it has and the main question is why it hasn’t. My observation is that we wait until last minute, until there will be no v4 or until transit carriers say that it all has to be on v6. Its more like the way most of us have no routine of organizing routine maintenance of our health until there is a scare and we have to do it. Maybe its the same, until its said that until all is v6 ready, nothing will happen, Africa may not implement.

There has been many arguments on why IPv6 is great but one thing it might do is raise the connectivity visibility because every gadget will have its address; from your smart fridge, TV, mobile etc..

Want to know how many African organizations are running IPv6? Here is the list.