Network Peering With InfoRelay

Do you recall the days when business was conducted with a handshake? Where a neighbor would stroll over on a Saturday afternoon and ask to borrow your drill, and you would lend it, because you had borrowed his table saw a couple of weeks earlier?

Well, I don’t remember those days either, but if you can believe it, something of that ethos still exists in within our industry. It’s called settlement-free peering.

What is Peering?

Peering is when two networks, otherwise unaffiliated with each other, agree to share network capacity at need.

This has several practical applications. In the first place, it allows for overflow if there is a sudden burst in traffic or if the network in question is fending off a DDoS attack.  

It increases redundancy (never a bad idea to have a backup or six) and allows for more options in routing if there is a bottleneck or if a server has gone down.

This isn’t just a benefit to InfoRelay, and our clients. By peering, we extend the same advantages to our partners, which is what makes this arrangement so robust. Everyone is a winner.

In a few cases, peering agreements have money change hands. But mostly, peering agreements are “settlement-free.” This means that we don’t pay a fee to access their network, and they don’t pay a fee to access ours. This no-cost access has been said to be a driving growth factor, because if fees came into play every time you needed to access that overflow, companies would be much more conservative in amount of data they shuffled around, or they would have to pay much more to build that extra redundancy into the networks they control.

How Does Peering Work?

Just like sharing tools with your neighbors, peering requires physical proximity. Our 15 data centers around the country are usually in the same building or compound with other connectivity providers, so it’s a relatively simple step to “share ports,” somewhat similar to tapping into a shared electrical system. And of course, once we are allowed access to a peer’s network, we can then make use of their data centers everywhere, if it makes sense from a routing perspective to do so.

Not all peers are created equal. For our purposes, we aim to find peers with as good or better connectivity as we ourselves provide. There’s no point in dumping packets into a network that cannot handle it. In addition to link speed, we also take a look at their ability to handle both IPv4 and IPv6 prefixes. We have offered IPv6 since 2010, and we need to ensure that the clients who use that version also get their needs met. Luckily, this is becoming increasingly common and we have a plethora of high-quality peering partners to choose from.

Peering is one of the more fascinating aspects of network management, relying as it does on mutual benefit without money changing hands. Not too many examples of that anymore.


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