The new BNIX platform in five questions

Migration completed successfully

The Belgian internet exchange BNIX, in full Belgian National Internet eXchange, was completely upgraded last month. Companies connected to BNIX can exchange direct data traffic with one another and are less dependent on transit providers. BNIX enables internet suppliers, content providers and large companies to exchange data traffic with one another faster and cheaper. The participants lay down themselves the conditions under which this takes place in peering agreements.

The BNIX platform, that celebrated its 20 years of existence last year, currently has 56 participants. They include Belgian internet providers such as Proximus and Telenet, but also big companies such as Facebook and Verizon. Belnet, also a BNIX participant, set up the platform in 1995 as a neutral provider and is still responsible for managing it.

Belnet’s network team successfully completed the migration to the new platform last week. Network Engineer Stefan Gulinck and Account Manager Frédéric Libotte explain why and how the Belgian internet exchange was upgraded.

The previous BNIX platform dated from 2010. Why was renovation necessary?
Stefan: “The old platform was at maximum capacity and was end-of-life. In view of the rapid technological developments in recent years, such as mobile internet, e-commerce, cloud services and the Internet of Things, we can expect internet use in Belgium to continue to grow. So we needed more capacity and to upgrade the BNIX platform. Just to give you an example, with the new BNIX we can key into the increasing demand for 10 Gbit/s ports.”

What are the main advantages of the new platform?
Frédéric: “First and foremost the increased capacity: the new switch can switch 13.2 terabits per second (Tbps). To compare: the previous one had a maximum capacity of 3.5 Tbps. Moreover there are a lot more 10 Gbit/s ports available and even 100 Gbit/s connections will be possible during the course of 2016. A number of clients have already shown concrete interest in this. In addition, the new BNIX is even more reliable and scalable. The increased energy efficiency is also an important factor: although the new switch is 4 times more powerful than the previous one, it only needs about the same wattage at full capacity.”

How did you go about the migration?
Stefan: “BNIX is present at three physical locations. First we migrated the Point of Presence in the data centre in Evere (Level3), then followed Diegem (LCL) and Zaventem (Interxion). We carried out the migrations between 12.00 hours at night and 5.00 hours in the morning. In this way we could minimise the impact for our clients. Immediately after the migration we tested that the connections were working properly. We always had the details of a contact person at our clients to hand in case we hit any problems. In total the migration – including the preparations - took about 4 months. We had to engineer, carry out impact analyses, work out the scenarios for the migration, etc. As soon as we had finished this, we were able to prepare the cabling, carry out a proof of concept and finally migrate all our clients. The new BNIX platform has been fully operational since 10 June.”

How does BNIX in 2016 differ from the very first platform in 1995?
Stefan: “BNIX has, of course, grown tremendously as compared with the initial years. You could say that BNIX’s story has developed alongside the development of the internet in Belgium. The main difference is undoubtedly that initially the internet was something that was nice to have, but it has now developed into something you can’t do without, both at work and in our private lives. Of course, the capacity of the first platform in 1995 was a lot smaller and there were only 6 participants connected to the X-Router. The name ‘BNIX’ only came into being in 1997. At the start the BNIX Point of Presence was still located in Belnet’s offices. Later two more PoPs were added in specialised data centres and the third Point of Presence with Belnet was contracted out to a data centre.”

The BNIX upgrade will undoubtedly be the subject of discussion at the annual BNIX Networking Event later this year. Can you tell us something about this?
Frédéric: “The date for the event has now been set: on Thursday 29 September 2016 we are expecting all the participants for the 7th edition of this event. For the moment the location remains a surprise. I can already tell you that the event will take place at a location in Brussels near the European quarter and that most Belgians have visited this place at least once in their life! We are keeping the same formula as previous years, i.e. a combination of short presentations by Belnet and a number of participants, followed by a networking part. This is very much appreciated by the participants. So we’re looking forward to welcoming them!”