PAIX lives

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When a fire ripped through the Walgreens drug store and Subway sandwich shop in downtown Palo Alto late Sunday night, most residents worried about damage to the historic Walgreens building, street closures, and what would happen to their prescription records. But the tech savvy had another concern.

â''The building just suffered a structural collapse. Everyone is being evacuated 200 feet from the structure in case it goes down. Could PAIX be in danger?â'' posted a city resident on the local discussion board, Town Square Forum, at 11:47 pm July 1.

PAIX, which once stood for Palo Alto Internet Exchange, houses banks of computers just a few feet away from the burned Walgreens. IMG_1278.JPG

Built as part of a DEC research facility in 1991, PAIX is one of the oldest Internet exchange points in continuous operation; such facilities allow diverse commercial networks to pass data back and forth. In 1997 it was one of the largest Internet exchanges on the planet, its share of U.S. Internet traffic around that time was about 60 percent. These days, operated by Switch and Data as the Peering And Internet Exchange, PAIX handles 30 or 40 gigabits per second of Internet traffic. That still makes it one of the largest exchanges in the U.S., though itâ''s dwarfed by mega exchanges in other countries. A failure at PAIX would slow down Internet traffic as packets found other, less efficient routes to travel, says Bill Woodcock of Packet Clearing House, but probably not significantly.

â''The loss would likely not be catastrophic,â'' Vinton Cerf, vice president and chief internet evangelist for Google, told Spectrum.

Still, the threat to PAIX was keeping at least a few tech cognizanti up Sunday night. But PAIX was spared. â''No danger to PAIX. Fire is out!" another resident posted on the discussion board at 1:40 a.m.

Employees, however, are still entering the building through a side door; the front door is behind police barricades.

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