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Middle East panel says 'latency is the new currency'

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Centred on the words of Ivo Ivanov, CEO, DE-CIX International, one Capacity Middle East panel session examined the idea that "latency is the new currency".

Moderated by Johann Adjovi, partner at Analysys Mason, Adjovi first heard those words from Ivanov during a peering workshop, believing the observation to be "quite spot on".

"I've always thought of latency as key aspect of creating a potential paradigm shift," added Adjovi. In his viewing this change will move away from just pure speed to more about the latency.

"It used to be that we as consumers and enterprises wanted fast, faster and super-fast speeds but now, given that gigabit speeds are becoming more commonplace, demand turns towards wanting lower latency connections which allow interactivity and real-time, particularly in a cloud-based post pandemic world."

Along with Ivanov, joining the discussion was Peter van Burgel, CEO, AMS-IX; Mohamed Bakry, head of systems engineering – CTO, Cisco Systems; and Jennifer Holmes, CCO, LINX.

Bakry agreed with Adjovi's views, particularly the reference to it being currency, saying: "From our perspective latency is money and we are trying to explore how to monetize latency in today's world".

He also recognised that while "connectivity is king, latency is what matters the most", but the biggest question to be answered is the why.

"Reduced latency (from a subscriber/consumer perspective) usually translates to a more efficient application and better user experience. So in a industry like gaming its not just annoying, it drastically impacts the user experience and perceived quality of a game."

Ivanov expanding on this, reminding us that as well as streaming content and gaming it was also about "the different workloads when it comes to cloud-usage, application interconnection or real-time robotics. Everything involved here requires lower latency 10-15 milliseconds all the way to less than five milliseconds in the case of real-time applications."

"All this shows us that the infrastructure needs to be designed in a similar way and exchanges are a perfect example of how latency can be improved based on this model. Internet exchanges operate delivering services for direct interconnection, peering is a perfect example of this," he added.

Comprised of both direction interconnections and localised data traffic, something that DE-CIX has been doing from the outset, are the best ways to further reduce latency, explained Ivanov. These are having real-world material impacts with one example of a construction company that DE-CIX worked with saw its IT desk tickets reduced by more than 50% as a result of better latency through local interconnections.

Van Burgel said: "In the old days you would argue that telecom providers/carriers were the big investors in infrastructure and with that trying to bring more bandwidth and lower latency. But for quite a few years now we see the content providers becoming the driving force behind the investments. They really are developing more of a local ecosystem."

Speaking more specifically to the developments in the Middle East, building on LINX's partnership with STC to launch the Jeddah Internet Exchange, as well as the recently announced expansion of its services to Saudi Arabia, Holmes shared her thoughts.

"The development in the Middle East over the last few years has been immense. The separation of the different parts of the different companies is absolutely crucial in the development of the interconnection for the region."

As a result, she has witnessed huge growth, explaining that the Jeddah Internet Exchange saw more than 130Gps of traffic over the last six months alone.

"We've been used to it in Europe for the last 20 or 30 years, the neutrality and the flexibility of networks, and we're definitely seeing that making a move down towards the Middle East."