In the digital era, being able to exchange data with partners quickly, reliably and securely is key to collaboration, innovation and business success. This is essentially the problem the internet was created to solve. Many people think of “the internet” as the websites and applications they interact with, but it’s really nothing more than the underlying network of networks that exchanges traffic to make those websites and applications accessible to users.
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There are three ways organizations can exchange traffic over the internet: IP transit, public peering and private peering. Which option you choose should depend on how much traffic you need to exchange, and which partners you’ll be exchanging with. However, it’s important to remember that your approach to peering must change to keep up with changes in your business. You’ll probably start with IP transit for most of your partners, progress to public peering once you reach a certain volume of traffic with certain partners, and finally move to private peering for a select few partners you exchange extremely high volumes of traffic with regularly.
IP transit enables a hands-off approach
Most peering partnerships take place over IP transit, because it requires the least planning, resources and expertise to get started. In fact, IP transit essentially means letting an internet access solution provider take care of everything. Equinix Internet Access is one example of such a solution.
At any given time, there will be an extremely high number of organizations doing IP transit, but an extremely low volume of traffic being exchanged. IP transit is ideal for any partnership that’s not big enough to justify anything beyond the basic public internet, so it stands to reason that most organizations start their peering journeys here. Organizations can achieve cost and performance benefits by complementing IP transit with public peering and private peering.
Public peering offers the next step in the peering journey
After an organization reaches a certain volume of traffic in their peering relationships, it may make sense for them to begin using an internet exchange (IX). This is what we commonly refer to as “public peering”, as organizations are able to choose from many different peers on the same IX.
Public peering does require more time, resources and expertise to get started than IP transit, but it also pays off in the form of higher reliability, performance and efficiency. Based on the interconnection behavior of Equinix customers, we estimate only 10% of all traffic peered on our platform happens via public peering: this shows that on a per-partner basis, public peering partnerships are significantly smaller than private peering partnerships.
Private peering creates the most direct link possible between peers
The final step in any organization’s peering journey would be private peering: a direct interconnection between two partners colocated in the same data center. The traffic flows over a cross connect, which is a physical point-to-point cable link between the two partners. Private peering provides the most reliable, low-latency method possible for exchanging traffic with a peering partner.
You can think about peering relationships in the same way you think about personal relationships: public peering via an IX is like going to a party and meeting many new people all at once. At that party, there may be one or two people you really connect with, and you may go on to spend one-on-one time with those people. Those close personal friendships you develop are comparable to your private peering partnerships.
At the same time, the need for physical colocation means private peering can be costly and inconvenient to set up. Private peering also requires both partners to enter into a formal agreement with one another, meaning there’s significant due diligence to be done on both sides. For all these reasons, private peering only makes sense for your very largest peering partners. This is why the volume of internet traffic exchanged via private peering is very high—estimated at 90% of all traffic peered across Platform Equinix—even though the total number of private peering partnerships is quite small.
Best practices for taking peering to the next level
As you progress through the different stages of peering, there are a number of different decisions you’ll have to make. You’ll need to keep close track of partners you’re exchanging significant amounts of traffic with, so that you can make informed decisions about which partners you should progress to the next level and when. You’ll also need to select an IX with the largest partner ecosystem, to ensure the partners you want to peer with will be available to you when you need them.
In addition, you’ll need to think about private peering in terms of geographic location. If your peering provider isn’t in the same location as the partners you need to peer with, then you won’t be able to act quickly once you’re ready to progress to private peering. Perhaps most importantly, peering is a specialized skill set, so it’s no surprise that even some large enterprises don’t have the knowledge and experience to effectively manage their own peering partnerships. If this statement is true of your organization, you must be honest with yourself about that, and plan to bring in a peering provider that can help provide the knowledge you’re missing.
Equinix Internet Exchange® is the largest IX on the planet, with the most peers, moving the most traffic, in the most markets. This means you’ll be more likely to find the partners you need, and you’ll be able to easily collocate with them wherever it makes the most sense to do so. Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers are currently in more than 65 metros across the globe; of these, more than 40 are Equinix Internet Exchange locations.
Equinix is the only peering provider that can offer a worldwide colocation platform, backed up by an ecosystem of thousands of potential peering partners and an unmatched portfolio of interconnection solutions. With Platform Equinix®, organizations get the most options and opportunities to scale across every step of their peering journey.
To learn more about how Equinix can support you throughout your peering journey, read the solution brief today.