What is Internet Peering?

When you send an email to your friend, a lot more is happing in the background: the email you’re sending travels along the network you are connected to. Often, it will have to cross over to another network, or several different networks, before it actually arrives in your friend’s inbox.

There are different entities that own and run these networks. These are, for example, governments, internet service providers, companies, and universities – basically, anyone who quickly and easily wants to exchange traffic. Between these entities, peering agreements are made about what happens when your traffic moves in between networks. 

Peering is a method that allows networks to connect and exchange traffic directly, without having to pay a third party to transfer the traffic across the internet. This means that peering partners, agree to freely exchange traffic with each other, which is usually beneficial for both parties.

The difference between public and private peering

Peering allows entities to directly hand off traffic between each other’s customers. There are two main types of peering: public and private.

  • Public peering is the most popular, which is usually carried out through an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) or exchange point. 
  • Private peering is when two or more private networks agree to exchange traffic.

How does public peering work?

Public peering is done through IXPs. An Internet exchange is an Ethernet switch in a colocation facility. Within this colocation facility, all networks are connected to this switch. This means that at these locations, one network can peer with multiple other networks, through a single connection. Peering agreements have to be made between peers, however, no additional cabling needs to be done.

Some of the largest IXPs in the world have hundreds of participants in many different locations. This means that you can connect with a large number of networks. Because of this, public peering is more affordable on a cost per Mbps basis.

How does private peering work?

Private peering takes place in colocation facilities, wherein two entities with separate networks run a direct point-to-point cable between them. In this case, no exchange point switches are used. This is mainly used whenever networks need to exchange a big amount of traffic. It is a dedicated physical connection between two peers.

What are the benefits of Internet peering?

Having peering agreements has a great list of benefits.

  • Faster connections between networks
  • Increased bandwidth capacity
  • Greater control over traffic flow and routing paths
  • Improvement of overall network performance
  • Increased redundancy
  • Extra support resources provided by peering partners
  • Lower transit costs due to direct connection

What are the requirements for peering?

There are a couple of requirements when it comes to peering.

  • You will need a public Autonomous System Number (ASN number) that is assigned by a Regional Internet Registry (RIR), such as RIPE.
  • You need at least one block of IP addresses.
  • You’ll need to make sure that you have an edge router for the BGP protocol in order to configure interconnections.

Key takeaways

Public and private peering allows different networks to connect and exchange traffic directly. The greatest benefit of this is that no third party has to be paid to carry the traffic across the internet. Alongside, with internet peering, you’ll get greater control and are able to improve overall network performance.

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