To Peer or Not to Peer: How to Optimize the Internet

Why market leaders are turning to peering to execute their digital-first business strategies

Juergen Kaus
To Peer or Not to Peer: How to Optimize the Internet

As businesses look to emerge from the dark days of the pandemic, they are increasingly shifting to a digital-first business strategy. There’s been a lot of talk about digital transformation in recent years, but now business leaders are eager to see their efforts start paying off. They want to improve efficiency, create new revenue models and provide a better end-user experience. In order to achieve this goal, the ability to interconnect quickly, securely and cost-effectively with an ecosystem of service providers and other partners is more important than ever before.

According to the recently released Equinix Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 5, 75% of organization leaders say they will leverage digital ecosystems to adapt their value chains to new markets and industries, while 82% say that XaaS offerings are critically important to their business success—a 70% increase from 2018. With so much interest in connecting with partner ecosystems, it’s no surprise to see that global interconnection bandwidth is predicted to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 44% between now and 2024—which would ultimately make it 15 times larger than the public internet.

Enterprises need private connectivity to access services that help them serve end users better, including the cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools that became so vital during the pandemic. Peering may not be the most exciting way to get that connectivity, but it remains important, for reasons we’ll explore in more detail in this blog.

Reach Everywhere and Everyone

The Equinix Internet Exchange™ allows networks including ISPs, Content Providers and Enterprises to easily and effectively exchange Internet traffic.

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What is peering?

Simply put, peering occurs any time traffic is exchanged directly between parties, without that traffic having to traverse the public internet. It can be divided into private and public peering.

As the name suggests, private peering involves a dedicated cross connect that brings together two colocated organizations within an internet exchange point. Private peering requires both parties to enter into a formal agreement with one another before the peering process can begin. As a result, it requires diligence on the part of both parties, and can therefore be complex and time-consuming to get started. This means that a private peering arrangement is generally only worthwhile for two parties that will be consistently moving large amounts of traffic between them.

On the other hand, public peering functions more like a conference bridge or a multicast meeting where everyone can talk to each other. This can be particularly useful in a case where one organization wants to distribute traffic to multiple peers from a single physical port. The peering agreement is defined by the internet exchange, so everyone peers under the same set of rules. This means that public peering is generally much quicker and easier to get started.

One example of where public peering is a great fit is the case of large device or software manufacturers. In order to push out regular software updates, the manufacturer will peer with many different internet exchanges and network and mobile service providers. All these internet exchanges and service providers will then publicly peer with others, allowing them to pass those software updates on to their end users much faster than other service providers that aren’t peered with the manufacturer.

Understanding potential peering use cases

Many enterprise customers prefer to access services from hyperscalers and SaaS providers via private peering for security reasons. In an environment where high-profile cybersecurity attacks are unfortunately all too common, they have good reason to avoid exposing their traffic to the potential risks of the public internet.

However, many of those hyperscalers have grown reluctant to enter private peering arrangements, as they want their services to be widely available to many different customers with consistent levels of quality and bandwidth. Since peering directly with hyperscalers may not be an option, enterprise customers can get similar security and reliability benefits by peering privately with their partner NSPs and ISPs instead.

Another potential use case for peering would be accelerating application migration to the cloud, as in the case of KEMET Corporation. This Equinix customer created a highly resilient hybrid multicloud environment, based on two identical SD-WAN infrastructures in Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers in Los Angeles and Ashburn, VA. KEMET’s ISPs used peering via a single physical port to deliver greater scalability when moving traffic between the two KEMET infrastructures.

Industry use case: Banks gain access to vital financial data

Banks and other large financial institutions may rely on interconnections with hundreds of different financial and IT service providers, including financial feeds from companies like Reuters, Bloomberg and Nomura. Peering in a colocated data center—such as that offered via the Equinix Internet Exchange™—creates the opportunity to access those services in a manner that’s both price-sensitive and time-sensitive. Banks can use peering to get quick, reliable access to the financial data they need, allowing them to make split-second decisions based on up-to-date information.

Working with a peering infrastructure provider that has a global data center presence—such as Equinix—gives these organizations the opportunity to colocate with service providers in all the main financial hubs across different continents, including New York, London and Tokyo.

Choosing the right peering location and ISP

Once you’ve made the decision to peer, your next step is to decide where to peer. To do this, you’ll need to find out where the potential peering points are for the networks you’re interested in peering with. The video below shows how the Equinix Internet Exchange Portal makes it easy to find potential peering partners in the metros that matter the most to you.

You’ll also want to select the right ISP for your peering needs. To do this, consider the services you use most often. Check with the providers for those services to see which direct peering partners they have in your area. If a provider doesn’t list a suitable ISP in your area, try evaluating potential ISP partners based on their looking glasses.

Simply put, peering occurs any time traffic is exchanged directly between parties, without that traffic having to traverse the public internet.”

Why choose Equinix Internet Exchange for your peering infrastructure?

Equinix has the world’s largest internet exchange footprint: the most peers, in the most markets, moving the most traffic. Equinix Internet Exchange offers access to peering infrastructure in more than 30 markets worldwide, making it easy to connect to your partners and customers, no matter where they are in the world. In addition, our rich partner ecosystem—made up of more than 1,800 network service providers, 3,000 cloud and IT service providers, and 4,700 enterprises—means you’ll always be able to connect with the right partners to meet your business needs.

Using Equinix Internet Exchange for peering can help you optimize your network, lower costs, and get content to end users with improved performance and lower latency. Equinix customers can also use Equinix Internet Exchange in conjunction with Equinix Connect to take advantage of peering while also enjoying consistent, high-performance public internet access.

Equinix works with an ecosystem of partner internet exchange points to greatly expand the potential peering connections for our customers. For instance, the CERN Internet eXchange Point (CIXP) extends to two of our IBX data centers in Geneva. Together, we give service providers from Switzerland and across Europe options to better support their interconnection requirements.

To learn more about Equinix Internet Exchange and how it can provide market-leading peering infrastructure to help optimize your digital business, read the Equinix Internet Exchange data sheet today.

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Get the latest peering news and highlights in this webinar, featuring Equinix partner Anapaya Systems.

Equinix has the world’s largest internet exchange footprint: the most peers, in the most markets, moving the most traffic.”