Ottawa’s internet infrastructure taking shape with Fibre Centre, Purecolo

IXP
Editor's Note

This article was updated to better reflect the technical details of Fibre Centre and Purecolo's roles in Ottawa's IXP

The future of the internet in Ottawa has never looked brighter thanks to the efforts of numerous groups aiming to improve the National Capital Region’s network infrastructure.

Techopia reported last July that a new group was looking to find a host for the capital’s Internet Exchange Point – a hub for content distributors, internet service providers and other large enterprises to plug directly into the heart of the internet and keep their data transfers fast and local.

Leading the charge has been the National Capital Internet Exchange, which features representatives from Invest Ottawa, the Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks, local ISPs and the Canadian Internet Registration Authority. Also operating as Ottawa-Gatineau Internet Exchange, or OGIX, the group formed last summer to find a suitable home for an IXP in the region.

Fibre Centre, which also houses an IXP in New Brunswick, announced plans in late 2018 to develop a carrier-neutral hotel facility on Michael Street in Ottawa that could serve as a suitable home for Ottawa’s IXP. Its qualifications as a carrier-neutral hotel – in layman's terms, think of this as a heavy-duty colocation space like a data centre – set it up to host large carriers, and OGIX chair Christian Tacit said the the group is currently in negotiations with Fibre Centre to host the core of the IXP.

As the first carrier-neutral hotel in Ottawa, Fibre Centre will look to fulfill the same role as 151 Front St. W. in Toronto, which since 1997 has acted a hub for major telecom players and other large enterprises to transfer their data quickly and locally. When complete, Fibre Centre’s Ottawa space will feature 16,000 square feet of space with biometric security and 24-hour video surveillance.

Meanwhile, Kanata-based Purecolo announced in early 2019 that it had struck an agreement with OGIX to officially house an IXP location as well. The company said in a release that it had met the technical requirements to host the exchange point, namely that its data centre is carrier-neutral, accommodates dark fibre connections, allows 24/7 access and has a permanent location. The firm added that it looks forward to playing a foundational role in the capital’s internet infrastructure as a host for the IXP.

"As internet-rich apps and tools become increasingly common, this IXP will increasingly become the centre of that growth,” said Purecolo COO James Mackenzie in a statement.

Having multiple locations gives the IXP a built-in redundancy should an isolated disruption – like the tornadoes that ripped through the region in 2018 – knock one of the facilities offline for a time. OGIX board member and CIRA chief technology officer Jacques Latour said the internet exchange group is also in discussions with a startup data centre in Gatineau to extend the internet across the Ottawa River.

“So it’s opening up avenues for innovation in Gatineau,” Latour said.

Bringing the core of the internet to the capital presents opportunities for local firms and city infrastructure. Latour said the IXP will enable smart-city applications such as autonomous vehicles, which rely on low-latency network connections.

While Latour said the process to find a suitable home for the IXP dragged on a little long – “Ottawa has its own speed when it comes to working with big telcos,” he said – getting it set up will mean faster connections for those organizations that choose to plug in.

“Things should be way faster now to get connected in Ottawa,” Latour said.

Purecolo’s Michael Lalonde told Techopia recently that OGIX has been testing equipment in Purecolo’s facilities in preparation to host the IXP. Tacit said OGIX doesn’t have a firm date yet for when the IXP would be up and running, but it’s working with both parties and is hopeful for a spring launch.