“We’re Building a Federation of Internet Traffic Exchange Points”
Bijal Sanghani is head of the European Internet Exchange Association (Euro-IX) General Secretariat, a position that keeps her in touch with over 60 Internet traffic exchange points and from which, together with other regional traffic exchange point associations, she works on the commissioning of IX-F, a global federation. Present at the LACNIC 19 event held in Medellin where she received the title of Queen of the Tweet, Bijal talked to LACNIC News about the work of Euro-IX and also about her perspective on women’s participation in the ICT industry
By Pablo Izmirlian
An Internet traffic exchange point (IXP) is a place where different organizations and companies having an Autonomous System [AS] number can come together to exchange Internet traffic between their networks. “A traffic exchange point makes it easier to exchange Internet traffic,” said Bijal Sanghani, Head of the European Internet Exchange Association (Euro-IX) General Secretariat.
How was this done before the creation of IXPs? “Before, people used to buy IP transit. Then they’d go to the incumbent or buy private links to connect ISPs.” “An Internet traffic exchange point facilitates interconnection in a single location without having to pay a fee, as you are already paying a membership fee to be a part of the IXP,” she explained. “It’s about making agreements,” she added. For more information, she recommended watching the video created by Euro-IX, The Internet Revealed: A film about IXPs [http://youtu.be/a5837LcDHfE ].
Formally trained in mathematics, Bijal Sanghani began her professional career at Demon Internet, then one of Europe’s largest Internet service providers, and later went on to work for companies such as Level 3 and Flag Telecom (currently Reliance Globalcom). It was at Flag where she learned about peering and Internet exchange points. Since assuming her position as Head of the Euro-IX General Secretarial in October 2011, she has crossed over to “the other side.” “I guess it helps to have experienced being a member, as I can see things from another point of view,” said Sanghani.
What are your main tasks as Head of the Euro-IX General Secretariat?
I am the only full-time staff member, so I do a bit of everything – budgeting, planning, forums … Yes, a bit of everything (laughs). We have two annual meetings to which we invite our members. The last meeting we organized was in Hamburg, where 44 IXPs participated, the largest turnout so far for an Euro-IX forum. In addition to the forums, we maintain the IXP database and have a mailing list, working groups, and task forces. My job is to facilitate all this and to make sure that everything runs smoothly. I am also working on developing new IXPs and on the Twinning Program, which has been really popular, especially in Africa and Asia. We don’t have any cases of twinning in Latin America yet, but I expect this will happen here too.
Out of all the projects on which you are working, which would you say is the most important?
One of our biggest projects is IX-F, the federation. LAC-IX is just starting out. There’s APIX [the Asia-Pacific Internet Exchange], there’s Af-IX [the African Internet Exchange Point Association], and there’s Euro-IX. Together we’re building a federation of Internet exchange points. The federation currently includes Euro-IX, APIX and LAC-IX, the memorandum of understanding was signed last November. The African Internet Exchange Point Association became operational in August 2012 and they too will join the federation. Thus, the four organizations will join forces in considering global standards and cooperating with the development of Internet exchange points [ IXs] around the world, among other tasks. Another part of the federation’s work is building a global database, a key task that will allow us to produce reports and have more information on IXPs.
LACNIC events have a special space for women and IT. What do you think of this?
I would say there is quite a bit of female participation. I am in charge of organizing lunches and dinners for women at other meetings I attend, such as the RIPE [Regional Internet Registry for Europe] meeting that will be held next week in Dublin. Probably 10, 11, 12 women, at most, will attend, while at the Women in IT lunch we had over here… there were probably more than 30 women in the room… that’s a lot. In addition, many women who previously held technical roles no longer do so. I used to be involved in the technical area, but my work has now changed… many women who were in technical positions have now transitioned to more commercial or administrative tasks, which is a shame… but I guess we’re making room for the younger ones who are just starting.
What is the Net-Grrl program you are promoting about? Does it have to do with Euro-IX?
No, it is completely independent of Euro-IX. Actually, Net-Grrls was started by a girl called Abha Ahuja who was very involved in the technical field – she was involved with the IETF and had written several RFCs. She was very, very smart but unfortunately she died while still very young. The Net-Grrls program was her idea. Cathy Aronson, a great friend of Abha’s who is part of ARIN’s Advisory Council, decided to continue the Net-Grrls program in her memory. A fund for women has also been dedicated to Abha [the University of Michigan School of Engineering’s Abha Ahuja Memorial Scholarship Fund]. I help with the promotion. I have been organizing their lunches for about ten years, mainly in Europe. We have a Facebook group [https://www.facebook.com/groups/netgrrls/ ] and a mailing list for women, these are activities at global level… I think it’s fantastic, there aren’t enough women in Internet networking and I’m more than happy to support an organization that promotes the participation of women.
Why aren’t there more women in these professions?
I don’t know…
When you studied math, were you the only woman in the class?
Yes (laughs). There were only two of us… I don’t know… this is actually a conversation I have with other women… people say ‘when we attend a meeting, perhaps we should talk to the women and find out why more women don’t enter these professions,’ but the problem is that these women are already there… Perhaps we should go down a step and visit schools or universities, talk to the female students and say, ‘hey, look, there’s a whole industry out there, there’s the Internet, it’s not just men, women can also be involved and be successful there as well.’