MIX Interview: Get to know our CTO, Mauro Magrassi

What does your role entail at MIX?

I am ultimately responsible for the MIX technical team. My squad looks after a lot of things, including the MIX Network Infrastructure development and operations. This includes the Internet Exchange switching platform itself, the Data Centers that host the core of that infrastructure together with customers interconnection equipment colocated with us, and the IT and security services for all the internal and customer facing applications we have developed throughout the years.  

What’s the best part of your job?

There’s really no chance to get bored when you have to cover all of the above! I enjoy working with my nine-person team to manage our large service portfolio which plays such a crucial role in the Internet ecosystem, especially with the huge growth figures we have experienced lately. I also proudly brew a great espresso for myself and any office guests too; it usually keeps them awake!

What exciting things are happening at MIX right now?

A hell of a lot! 

On the network side, we’re migrating our L2 platform to a EVPN infrastructure to meet customer demand in terms of scalability, adopting at the same time 400G both for the core connections and high speed connecting members. We are also adding a new PoP to the Milan cluster and creating new Metro Areas (independent local IXs through the country) to sustain our ‘keep local traffic local’ mantra.

On the Data Center side, we’re working on the optimization and empowering of the existing twin DC infrastructure in the Caldera Campus, finally obtaining full redundancy on our own proprietary power distribution architecture while optimising PUE for both data rooms, implementing free cooling wherever possible and becoming greener than ever. We’re also working on expansion plans as we expect to fill all available space throughout 2023.

On the Customer Service side, we are working hard to improve the handling of Hands & Eyes, DC access, and cross connects requests/management through the second release of our Customer Portal. We want to provide each of our members with a complete dashboard of the services MIX provides. Ranging from IP traffic on the IX—our bread and butter—to power and rack space utilisation, and cross connects request and management. We believe that together with the MIX Finder, our “marketplace” section of the Customer Portal, our members will be able to find and manage most MIX services—massively improving the value of a MIX membership.

If you could change one thing about the digital infrastructure industry, what would it be?

I see a lot of dedication from many knowledgeable people both within large and small players providing network and ISP services, and being a seasoned witness of the local Internet scenario I am not concerned about the future of the industry at techie level. 

As an industry, we’re never enough in numbers. Because of that, we created the ‘MIX cool school program’ with secondary schools to grow the numbers of enthusiastic young network engineers joining the community. 

In general I am pretty much concerned about that fact that the competition on the retail market is done quite exclusively on the Internet Access prices, and being so fierce not giving back to the ISP community enough resources to build and develop a solid FTTH and Wireless Fixed Broadband access infrastructures, two key platforms that must be equally strong in a scenario like the Italian one. I have the feeling that we could have gained more from the live streaming of sport events and the increased use of enterprise smart working through the pandemic, but maybe it’s just too early to say that.

Why should more businesses leverage connections to Italian networks?

The live streaming of sporting events and smart working adoption in the enterprise world created a point-of-no-return in our habits, both as everyday workers and individuals spending our leisure time—this is driving a huge push for the country to become more digitised. The traffic figures speak for themselves!

I also feel the interest in Italy as a country (our food, culture, lifestyle, luxury goods development and craftsmanship) has never been as strong as it is today. This offers an unprecedented level of opportunity for foreign network players to connect their mature digital markets to the developing Italian one, to increase mutual benefit. There’s a lot of interest in digital services within the Italian enterprise world (cloud, digital security etc.) and an appetite for gaming and sports streaming by local end users. Increasing the quality of the connectivity between foreign enterprise buyers and Italian firms (luxury goods, fashion, automotive parts, food and so on just to make some examples) will also be beneficial for all.

Is there any additional information you want to share about upcoming events, things on the roadmap, etc?

I am really excited about the development of local Internet Exchanges across the country (the metro areas I mentioned earlier). These are local broadcast peering domains fully separated from MIX Milan, and are developed together with very committed and enthusiast partners. The common goal is to boost the local ISP community while giving CDN players the opportunity to deliver content deep inside the national and local networks, easing their job and improving the end user experience of digital content. 

The Palermo and Bologna sites are fully operational and others will follow shortly. It is essentially a “demand driven” project, focused on “virgin” areas but also open to committed partners willing to boost the value of their datacenters with a truly neutral IX, like MIX, at their locations outside Milan. As far as Milan is concerned, we will continue to populate new locations with local MIX IT PoPs, transparently connected with redundant dark fibres to our core node to guarantee equal peering opportunities to everyone, no matter which DC they choose to colocate with.