Internet exchanges play critical role during submarine cable outages

A series of submarine cable outages in the past two weeks caused widespread disruptions of Internet service in the EMEA and Asia regions, leading to increased attention on the importance of alternate routes and better interconnectivity. For land-based Internet exchanges, the timing couldn't be better, according to Harald Summa, CEO of Germany-based DE-CIX Management GmbH.

Summa this week touted the importance of UAE-IX, the carrier-neutral Internet exchange that DE-CIX manages in Dubai, where about 20 international and regional ISPs exchange traffic.

"Higher connectivity can reduce the impact of submarine cable cuts for ISPs and their customers in the Middle East, East Africa and South Asia," said Summa in a company release.

On March 27, three divers reportedly cut the SeaMeWe-4 submarine cable connecting Europe to the Middle East. Two other subsea routes, EASSy and SEACOM, which connect South and East Africa with Europe and Asia, saw disruptions due to cable cuts a few days before the sabotage off Egypt.

Internet exchanges received some alternate attention last week, too, due to their upstream role in the Spamhaus distributed denial of service attack. At the height of the event, according to CloudFlare, attackers flooded key connection points--including ISPs and Internet exchanges in Amsterdam and London--in an attempt to slow traffic regionwide. The event led some to question whether the neutral exchanges were security risks.

Still, while land-based networks are vulnerable to such incidents as well as other security issues or natural disasters, their larger mesh of connectivity does give them greater ability to route around outages. Last week's DDoS event was barely a blip on the traffic radar. But in areas served by three or fewer submarine cables, a cable cut can mean no Internet connectivity outside the continent--as was the case in East Africa last week, according to Renesys, from Djibouti to South Africa.

"Maintaining a presence at an Internet exchange maximizes your options for re-establishing high-performance route diversity during a submarine cable outage event," said Jim Cowie, chief technology officer and co-founder of Renesys, in the release.

For more:
- see this release
- Renesys has this blog post

Commentary: Spamhaus DDoS was just a warning shot

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Huawei's cybersecurity controversy prompts Hibernia to halt construction on trans-Atlantic cable
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