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Internet exchange point

Internet exchange point

(also IXP)

Internet exchange point definition

An internet exchange point (IXP) is where different networks, including internet service providers (ISPs) and large-scale content providers, come together to exchange internet traffic.

See also: network traffic analysis, network-to-network interface

Here’s how it works:

  • IXP acts as a physical infrastructure that enables different networks to exchange internet traffic directly rather than through third-party networks. This direct exchange is more efficient, so it minimizes costs and latency.
  • Various network operators (like ISPs, content delivery networks (CDNs), or larger enterprise networks) connect at these points. They establish “peering” relationships, where they agree to exchange traffic with each other, often for free.
  • Because the traffic is exchanged at an IXP, the data doesn’t have to travel long distances over potentially expensive transit paths. This reduces the overall distance that data packets need to travel, which makes data transmissions faster and cheaper.
  • As IXPs enable direct routing of traffic between peering networks, they can significantly improve bandwidth efficiency and reduce latency. This is especially noticeable in services that require real-time data transmission, like video streaming or online gaming.
  • IXPs contribute to the resilience of the internet by providing alternative paths for data flow. This redundancy is crucial for maintaining network availability even if one part of the network fails.
  • IXPs allow internet users to access local content faster, as it is routed through the nearby IXP rather than being transmitted over long international routes.
  • Many IXPs operate as neutral and open-access points, which means they don’t favor any particular network, allowing small and large networks alike to benefit from the exchange.

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