3 June 2024

10 years of DE-CIX New York

Frank Orlowski
Frank Orlowski, Executive Vice President at DE-CIX

DE-CIX New York is celebrating its 10th anniversary. New York was DE-CIX’s second Internet Exchange (IX) outside of Germany, established in 2014, a couple of years after launching UAE-IX powered by DE-CIX in Dubai. Today, DE-CIX New York is the largest Internet Exchange (IX) in New York, in the Northeast, as well as the largest neutral IX on the Eastern seaboard.

But how did we get here? Frank Orlowski, Executive Vice President at DE-CIX, takes us a decade back in time to tell us how DE-CIX New York came about and how we built the number one Internet Exchange in New York.

Blueprint for IX development

Back in 2012, we had just launched UAE-IX – DE-CIX’s very first Internet Exchange outside Germany. The project started as a consulting job for the UAE regulator resulting in a 369-page recommendation report providing them a blueprint for successful Internet Exchange development.

We ended up building a greenfield exchange outside of Germany and operating it.

So this small German group, which we were back then, had a blueprint to develop an IX outside of Germany and we actually operated one. How cool was that? Where else could we add value? Maybe we could re-create that same success in a competitive market?

Not a warm welcome

In 2013 I started to look at a number of markets. Due to my time in the US as a peering guy for Deutsche Telekom, I was pretty familiar with the New York market. Equinix were doing their IBX Exchange, Telx (now part of DRT) had established their TIE exchange, but this was limited in terms of relevance. The KDDI-owned NYIIX was in the lead, and we should not forget Shrihari Pandit’s Big APE exchange.

It was obvious that the New York market was fragmented and that the data center operators would at no point manage to get together and merge IX activities.

Our goal was to lead the efforts to consolidate the market and so we initiated conversations with potential partners for a DE-CIX project in the city. The outcome was rather dreadful: One large data center group would not even talk to us, another group in 60 Hudson did not know what to do with their exchange and seemed irritated by the fact that a group of Germans tried to initiate something.

So it really did not sound like a success story and at this point, I think that Ivo Ivanov, Arnold Nipper, and myself were the only three guys in the company that thought it might still be a good idea. And we went with it.

Going at it anyways

After completing the first drafts of what an exchange topology could look like on a flipchart –engineers love it when non-engineers do that – Ivo and I started building a business plan.

With the help of Shay Flavin at Zayo, we managed to secure some good deals for most of the network and colocation we would need on day one. That included a good deal for “riser fibers” inside 60 Hudson and 111 8th Avenue, something that would turn out to be an important piece of our infrastructure.

The revenue element of the business plan was what we called a “guesstimate” – we had only a rough idea of how long it would take to make this the number one exchange in that metro. But I was fascinated by the idea that we could actually build it.

New york 10 years rack
Early DE-CIX nodes in cages at Zayo 60 Hudson St & 111 8th Ave.

Deploying the platform

The team around started to deploy kit in our cages in 60 Hudson, 111 8th Avenue, 325 Hudson, 32 Ave of the Americas, 165 Halsey in Newark, and a few other slightly less relevant sites. The best experience we had was with the guys in 165 Halsey: They had a great colocation product, and we could even place the order for the inhouse cabling with the fiber group directly.

The exchange went live in 2014, with only a few participants. DE-CIX engineering did a great job and provided us with a rock-solid exchange, even if some of the engineering was very basic at the start, with lots of 1U switches and colored DWDM transceivers, all locations backhauled via VLANs to our 60 Hudson and 111 8th Avenue peering switches.

Kicking off local sales efforts

Andreas Sturm, who headed up sales at DE-CIX, tried absolutely everything to get our NY business of the ground, but it was clear that we needed to hire a local expert. I put a post on LinkedIn that we were looking for someone to run the show in the US. Ilissa Miller, whom I have known since the early 2000s, contacted me and recommended that I speak to a gentleman named Ed d’Agostino.

According to Linkedin, our paths had crossed previously, and Andreas and I met Ed at the Metro Connect Event 2014 and had a chat. It turned out that he liked the idea of helping us bring our ideas to fruition. He accepted the challenge and to this day, I am still delighted to have him on board.

Ed fought an uphill battle to make DE-CIX New York the number one exchange in the New York metro. And it worked. He continuously related the DE-CIX story, regardless of whether suspects or prospects wanted to hear it – and managed to onboard new participants every single month.

Number one

In 2018, we passed 200 connected networks. By adding more networks, naturally more traffic was handled, and we hit one terabit per second peak traffic in 2022.  We continued to add new sites and onboarded new partners. All the efforts paid off, and DE-CIX became the number one exchange in the market.

In 2024, New York is an outstanding interconnection market with four large and strong IXs offering local peering. Many data center operators have become loyal partners, and many customers have become friends of DE-CIX. Some of them even act as ambassadors for our service, of which we are very proud.

We strongly believe in a distributed, carrier and data center neutral approach, and we always strive to deliver the best service to our customers. And I am proud to be part of a team of trusted colleagues, all of whom have been vital in making the New York project a success.