An AMS-IX Story
July 28, 2023
In the summer of 2019, AMS-IX helped Batelco start a new Internet Exchange in Manama, Bahrain. Since the start of the new IX, major CDNs, like Amazon, Microsoft and Google, and 90% of all local networks have connected to the exchange, greatly improving Internet quality in the Gulf-region and significantly driving down the cost of interconnectivity.
Batelco is the leading telecommunications company in Bahrain. The company is part of the Beyon Group, a technology group with aspirations of becoming a top regional operator in the Middle East. Batelco has great ambitions and invested heavily in the expansion and development of its backbone infrastructure last couple of years, including cable systems, Data Centers, Internet exchanges and IP networks, catering to the ever-growing regional data growth. In line with their goals, they established Manama-IX, a neutral internet traffic exchange located in Manama, Bahrain’s capital in 2019, in partnership with AMS-IX.
Strong focus on infrastructure growth and traffic attraction:
In the past, regulatory factors and the limited number of licensed local telecom operators made intra-regional traffic exchange uncommon in the Middle East. As a result, end-users experienced significant performance issues associated with the long-haul routing that comes from connecting inefficiently to distant European cities before returning to the Gulf.
The cabinet of ministers of Bahrain appreciates the significant social and economic benefits of the Internet in general and the importance of exchanging Internet traffic locally in particular. Moreover, the Kingdom has the ambition to transform the country into a major staging ground for Internet companies and an Internet traffic hub that not just services the 1,5 million people living in Bahrain, but neighbouring countries as well.
”We see developing Bahrain into a transit hub as an opportunity, given that our country is surrounded by a total of 400 million people in neighbouring countries. The value of an exchange lies in its connected networks and related services and today the majority of all Bahrain operators are connected to Manama-IX.”
Batelco and the government worked on multiple fronts to make their vision of a local Internet hub a reality. Legislative changes were put in place to make it easier for digital businesses to open their doors in Bahrain and Global Zone was created, a carrier neutral digital business platform based on a highly secured Tier III Data Centre. Setting up a local peering product in the form of an Internet Exchange by Batelco that enabled local networks to exchange traffic locally was the last piece of the puzzle. In 2018, AMS-IX was approached by Batelco to help them set up, launch and manage an Internet Exchange together.
AMS-IX supported Batelco with a new service named IX-as-a-Service (IXaaS). With IXaaS, AMS-IX has bundled all its operational, technical and commercial knowledge into a single service. The solution consists of pre-patched hardware equipment, software and wiring, scaled to the client’s needs, which is shipped to the destination where it can be set up by local engineers. After instalment, AMS-IX NOC handles operational management of the exchange (in conjunction with local engineers for tech support).
The benefit of IXaaS is that it greatly reduces the amount of work for setting up an Exchange. For the client, the whole process is a plug-and-play. Operational management is handled by the AMS-IX staff, so that the client can
focus on building relations and growing the exchange. Moreover, the AMS-IX team provides the new IX with marketing and sales support, enabling the new IX to grow during the difficult starting phase.
“We chose AMS-IX due to its strong reputation and because their priorities fit our strategy. We were confident that they were the right partner to deliver, and they did. Our joint goal is to improve Bahrain's digital infrastructure and increase traffic on the platform to support a vibrant society. We are proud to have created one of the best internet exchanges in the region in just a few years.”
The new Internet Exchange Manama IX (MN-IX) went live in 2019. Since then, over 25 networks have connected to the new IX, and amongst them are some of the biggest content providers and local ISPs in the world. Customers include Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, Google, Ooredoo, Tata and Zain. 90% of all the local Internet Providers are connected in Manama to MN-IX. Since networks peer locally, a lot of traffic that used to backhaul via Europe now remains in the region, improving
the quality of the Internet in the Gulf.
“The value of MN-IX for the region is paramount. Let me give you an example. Kuwait is one of the largest users for gaming content and social media. Previously, their users had no other option than to go to Europe to fetch the traffic. Today, they have an option just 2 milliseconds away from them, which is MN-IX. They can enjoy the short paths and low-latency connectivity from Bahrain. We are enthusiastic about the future of our exchange and are dedicated to enhancing its growth and efficiency to deliver more value to our customers. Together with our esteemed partners, we will continue to work towards improving the region's digital ecosystem. Our partnership with AMS-IX, responsible for technical operations and marketing support, has been integral to our success thus far, and we look forward to exploring new opportunities for collaboration.”