Personnel

Introduction

It is likely that a start up IXP will not have any directly employed staff, and will be operated and supported by time donated on a voluntary basis by the founder members. This arrangement can be satisfactory in the start up phase, but evidence from existing IXPs would suggest that at some point (possibly when membership is somewhere between 10 and 20 ISPs) the IXP would need dedicated staff to operate reliably and efficiently. One major factor is the ability to provide 24x7 support. At a certain stage the member ISPs will have a reliance on the IXP that demands constantly available technical support. This cannot often be provided by purely voluntary means, and the time this occurs may be the watershed for employment of dedicated staff. Employing staff is a fairly important stage in the development of an IXP and has a number of implications. If an IXP has paid employees it is likely that it will need to have a formal legal standing if this is not already in place. The IXP will become subject to applicable employment laws, and will have to provide facilities for the staff to carry out their duties. However, these developments would seem to be essential for the IXP to continue growing, and to consider these factors in the start up phase is good forward planning, and may relieve some of the upheaval of the changes when they become essential.

Order of recruitment

It is unlikely that an IXP will be able to recruit an entire team of people in one go. In a number of cases in established IXPs there has initially been just one employee. Where an IXP has been run on a voluntary basis there is often one individual who has taken on the majority of the responsibilities, and this person is clearly a prime candidate for a first employee. People in this position can often combine technical, clerical and management skills and can therefore do all the tasks required to run the IXP. Of course this may not always be the case, and when an IXP reaches the point that a staff is required, consideration should be given to where skills are required. For example it may be case that technical support is quite capably handled by a third party, the initial requirement may be for non-technical clerical support, or sales support to ensure the growth of the IXP. There is no one correct 'order', each IXP's situation will be individual but a review of some of the skills to consider is included below.

Roles and skills

Management

The person or persons responsible for overall management of the IXP will usually combine technical, administrative and management skills, and as mentioned, may well have been involved in the start up of the IXP. The person(s) will need a good understanding of the role of an IXP, its relationship with the member ISPs, and the IXPs place in the global Internet infrastructure. A good manager will also be able to guide and advise the member ISPs in the best way to build and develop the IXP, whilst recognising the members needs. A manager must be aware of the legal and bureaucratic aspects of running the IXP.

Engineering and technical support

As the IXP becomes more important and critical to the members' operations, high calibre network engineers will be required to maintain the IXP. Engineers may be recruited from member ISPs, (member ISPs may be happier to see a good engineer move to an IXP rather than a competitor!), other ISPs, or possible other IXPs. It is quite unlikely that a candidate with little or no exposure to core IP networks would be suitable as a first engineer. However, high quality network engineers are not a common commodity, and as the IXP grows consideration should be given to training engineers in house. This adds to overhead of course, and it could be several months or more before an engineer is competent to have technical access to all aspects of the IXP. One role such a 'junior' engineer may be suitable for fairly quickly is first line technical support, as and when the demands on the skilled engineering staff are such that the more mundane duties can be delegated.

Office/admin

There will come a point as the IXP grows that the clerical and administrative duties will occupy a full time role. This is unlikely to be a simple secretarial role, and candidates should have some understanding of the role of the IXP and the peculiarities of an IXP compared with a normal commercial organisation. A first employee in this position should be an 'all rounder', possibly combining administrative with human resource and accounting skills

Sales and marketing

Whilst to some extent ISPs will find the IXPs they wish to join for themselves, it can be very useful to have staff dedicated to growing and marketing the IXP. Some ISPs may not be aware of the existence of the IXP; some may not fully understand the role of the IXP. Sales and marketing staff can also accelerate the joining process by assisting new prospective members in gaining membership. It is preferable, but by no means essential, that persons in these roles have some technical knowledge about the IXP, certainly they need to understand the role of an IXP, but it is quite feasible for in job training to provide this knowledge.

Future roles

As with any organisation that experiences continual growth staff in more specialised roles may be considered at some point. These roles are probably not appropriate to the start up IXP, or even the medium to large established IXP, but some roles that existing IXPs have employed specialised staff in are: systems administration, webmastering, human resources, public relations, financial control and legal representation.