How the Johannesburg Internet Exchange achieved 22 years of uptime

INX-ZA recently stated that the Johannesburg Internet Exchange (JINX) has seen no downtime in 22 years, providing uninterrupted services to users since June 1996.

“It is a significant technical achievement and we’re quite proud of it,” INX-ZA manager Nishal Goburdhan told MyBroadband.

JINX started as a project of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) and INX-ZA’s exchange points remain community-run initiatives to this day.

Despite its humble beginnings from a single switch in a closet outside an Internet Solutions data centre, JINX has maintained 100% uptime.

“The key for us has been to keep things simple,” Goburdhan said.

“There are a lot of ways an INX can complicate its operation. For us a crucial factor in ensuring uptime is to avoid complexity, follow best practices, and exercise caution before implementing changes – following the principle of ‘measure twice cut once’.”

Asked how they ensured that JINX never went down in the early days without a redundant switch, Goburdhan said that they used tight configuration control management, and created templates to work from.

If you keep everything you do simple, then you make this management easier and drastically minimises the likelihood for mistakes to creep in.

Good switches

It also helps that the mean time between failures for good switches — the kind that cost upwards of R150,000 — is 35 years, he said.

He said that he recently decommissioned the last of a set of switches that Cisco donated to JINX which had been in service for many years. One had been running continuously since 2006, and the other since 2010.

Goburdhan added that a lot also has to be said for the facilities in which JINX has been hosted over the years.

The exchange has moved several times, and in 2016 it expanded beyond the Internet Solutions data centre that had served it faithfully for nearly 20 years.

JINX’s multi-site capabilities have grown further since then, and it is currently hosted in data centres operated by Hetzner, Teraco, Liquid Telecom (South Africa Data Centre), and Internet Solutions.

South Africa’s Internet exchange

Before 2013, ISPA’s Internet exchange project was entirely volunteer run. When the organisation decided that the exchange points needed to become multi-site, it employed someone to drive the initiative.

“You couldn’t expect volunteers to do that,” Goburdhan said.

He explained that the landscape for Internet services is changing in South Africa, and to maintain the kind of uptime their exchanges in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban had achieved, they could not be at just one site.

“That’s what was driving us to get this multisite thing set up.”

While INX-ZA is no longer purely volunteer-run, it continues to be driven by the community of Internet service providers in South Africa.

The community determines the prices for INX-ZA’s services, and provide expertise where required, said Goburdhan.

Now read: Liquid Telecom unveils the South Africa Data Centre — Photos

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How the Johannesburg Internet Exchange achieved 22 years of uptime