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The Benefits of Network Peering

Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 13:30
Network Peering

The essence of the Internet is comprised of an expansive group of separate and autonomous networks, with each network consisting of a common framework of globally unique IP addressing and global Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing.

Using this framework, any Internet user can connect with any other user, as though they were on the same network. And to use the greater global network, each user must either pay to be connected through a transit connection or they must peer with every other network in the global framework that is not paying for a transit.

What is Network Peering?

Network peering is when one internet network connects to another directly, enabling a faster throughput and exchange of information. No additional charges are incurred and no third-party network is required. The typical connection to the internet is called transit. With a transit connection, the end user or network operator pays another larger network operator to carry their network traffic for them.

To set up peering with another network, you need to negotiate an agreement with that network and work to set up the connection between the two. This setup can be created in a variety of ways.

Types of Peered Connections

To establish a peering connection with another network, the two networks need to be connected with one another in one of four ways.

1. Public Peering

Setting up public peering via an Internet exchange (IXP) or exchange points - using one or more Ethernet switches that are collocated. This option is the most popular and tends to be more efficient. The reason, in part, is that no additional cabling is required.

Some of the largest IXPs in the world may have hundreds of participants spanning many locations across a city.  Since public peering uses a single port, it sometimes provides less capacity than private peering; on the other hand, it does have the advantage of connecting a much larger number of networks.

2. Private Peering

Private peering, involves 2 networks with routers in the same building, and a direct point-to-point cable between them. This is an alternative to public peering. This setup is advantageous when a large quantity of data needs to be exchanged. Most of today’s private peering arrangements occur at colocation facilities independent of a particular carrier.  Private peering interconnections make up most of the traffic on the Internet, especially between the largest networks.

3. Partial Peering

Setting up partial or regional peering so that network traffic is only exchanged in one area of the globe.

4. Paid Peering

Paid peering (partial transit) entails arranging for one network to pay the other network to participate in the arrangement.

Peering Requirements

To establish peering, there are several items that are required.  First, you need to have a connection to an exchange point – possibly a router or metro Ethernet circuit that connects equipment in one facility to the exchange point switch. Second, you will have to pay the exchange operator for the switch port, pay for your space in the colocation facility, and pay for connectivity from the metro Ethernet provider. Third, someone has to manage your peering arrangement – and contact all networks involved to facilitate the setup. Finally, you will need to come up with a set of rules for peering which decide who you will peer with and what requirements need to be met for the potential arrangement.

Types of Peering Agreements

Peering agreements may consist of a simple handshake agreement or may be written up into a formal contract. Regardless of the manner in which the agreement is made, the purpose is to detail how traffic is to be exchanged, tasks required to maintain the peering relationship, a list of issues that could cause the termination of the agreement, and details about how the peering relationship would end in the event that these terms are not met. For the most part, these types of agreements are only put in place between the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

 

Why Should You Set Up Network Peering?

  • Lower Costs – It may save a local network money if it receives traffic from another peer instead of paying exclusively for its own bandwidth usage.
  • Greater Control – Peering keeps traffic local.  With a transit connection, data follows any path over the Internet, so if there is packet loss or latency, the network user is vulnerable to the downtime experienced by its transit provider.  On the other hand, a network user that is on a peered network has the ability to adjust their routing across different segments if slowdowns or issues occur.
  • Improved Network Performance – Traffic that is kept local can result in faster connections between the two peered networks.  Moreover, attempts can be made to use a direct path and bypass possible bottlenecks if they arise.
  • Increased Redundancy – Reducing dependence of one or more transit providers is an advantage of participating in network peering.
  • Larger Bandwidth Capacity – This allows for extremely large amounts of traffic to be distributed across many networks.
  • Better Network Ranking – The ability to show your network at a higher tier than others, and therefore improve its perception across the Internet.
  • Access to Extra Support – Peering with other networks gives you access to a greater pool of support resources in the event of a disaster or other outage.

How Peering Benefits Data Centers

A direct connection between two data centers can offer mutually appealing benefits.  For example, a few exchange points in the US are operated by commercial carrier-neutral third parties, achieving cost-effective data center connectivity across the board.  In this arrangement, connectivity is improved for both networks with a direct connection.  And as a result, there is reduced latency and better bandwidth utilization for all network users.

As you can see, there can be many benefits to entering into a network peering agreement with other networks.  Analyzing and reviewing your network infrastructure costs and usage can help determine whether peering is the right fit for your organization.

Network Peering with West's MPLS Solution

Our managed enteprise network solution, Maxxis, allows on-network access to West's various peerings. With a network presence at some of the world's largest colocation facilities, Maxxis connects via public peerings at an Internet Exchange (IXs) point to other businesses and service providers to shorten the Internet path taken by critical business traffic, which can deliver a faster, higher quality, and more dependable connection to those services. We peer with companies including Amazon, BlueJeans, Cisco (CCA-SP), Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, Rackspace, Salesforce and more. 

When private connectivity is required, West once again leverages its presence at major colocation facilities to offer private connectivity. Customers can connect to the Maxxis network and leverage low-cost, easily maintained direct connections to service providers at major colocation facilities they'd otherwise have to reach across the open Internet. This connection is private; therefore, quality-of-service constraints and security measures can be applied to traffic traversing the connection as negotiated by the two parties concerned.

The expansion of our network peering relationships is an important and ongoing effort as part of enterprise network services. It helps us fulfill our mission to provide an exceptionally high level of service and industry-leading quality, but  also serves to improve the access to and performance of an increasing number of mission critical services from West and other leading cloud service providers.

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