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Peering gets remote as traffic grows

The arcane and frankly secret world of Internet peering usually comes into view when someone large gets sniffy about another large player and one or both sides threaten to go nuclear and cut each other off. It’s happened just recently with Netflix and Comcast where Comcast is “apparently” emboldened by the demise of US net neturality and has successfully demanded payment from its customers’ biggest content provider. I say “apparently” because these deals are always cloaked in secrecy for commercial and political reasons and nobody is yet sure what’s happened.

But while the big fights hit the headlines, there are literally thousands of little peering deals going on all the time between the hundreds of ISPs which comprise the network. So many that the bulk are simply sealed with a handshake or (more probably) a brief telephone conversation and an exchange of emails.

But now, over the past year or so, the experts (those peering into the peering world), say there is a huge change sweeping in. It’s called remote peering and it’s being enabled in the main by the technology costs swinging about (or failing to fall as fast as they could) and promoted by some of the big IXPs (Internet Exchanges) and global carriers.

Trad peering classically happens at an Internet exchange point. Each ISP runs in some connectivity and then exchanges traffic with most of the other ISPs also co-located. The costs are fixed - you have a line in, a router, you pay for colocation at the exchange and you pay for fees for the ports you use. An ISP may top up these peering arrangements with transit - where capacity is bought as traffic from another ISP, thus providing extra capacity when needed and also providing important reach to remote and small networks it’s not feasible or cost-effective to connect to with individual peering deals.

So-called Tier One backbone providers generally offer transit since they all connect everywhere with each other. So if a small ISP buys transit from a tier one it can connect to the world. However, it needs to balance potentially more expensive transit with cheaper-per-bit peering. Essentially going for peering where the data exchange is big enough, and transit where it isn’t

.

Until now.

Remote Peering is designed to square the circle by offering the best of both worlds. The cost-effectiveness of peering with the reach and one-stop-shop connectivity of transit. The ISP establishes a single connection (or set of fat connections) via a router to VLAN extensions from a full set of the world’s Internet exchanges. It gets to have control over peered connection performance (which it doesn’t have with transit), continued direct relationships with peered networks (it still agrees the peering arrangement at the remote exchange) and it doesn’t have the front-loaded capital costs it would have suffered with traditional peering.

This sort of service is a winner for global wholesale carrier service providers the likes of Brussels-based BICS, which has just announced its remote peering solution, following a reseller agreement with AMS-IX, the large Amsterdam Internet Exchange.

According to Johan Wouters, SVP at BICS, “Remote peering offers all the benefits of peering without complex set up processes or heavy capital and operational costs. Our extensive network footprint, broad portfolio of wavelength services, the Marseilles cable landing station and support teams make our remote peering solution an effective way for agile communications providers to expand their networks quickly.”

Having just returned from Mobile World Congress which has steadily absorbed what we used to view as ‘fixed’ (rather than mobile) infrastructure, it’s obvious that the big carriers’ moves to transform their networks with SDN will equip the most global of them to offer these sorts of complex services.

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