Peering in to the future

In basic terms, you wouldn’t consider delivering a parcel to someone a few minutes drive away by travelling via, say London, or even Amsterdam, and back first. But this is in effect what we do with our internet traffic.

An Internet Exchange, shortens the journey by allowing different Internet Service Providers, content providers (such as media companies, television companies etc) and others delivering services over IP, to interconnect directly rather than going through third party networks. It means the service providers’ network traffic doesn’t have to potentially travel huge distances to get from one network to another.

The usual way Service Providers connect to the internet is using ‘Transit’, when an end user or network operator pays another, usually larger operator to carry their Internet traffic for them. If there’s a problem however, such as a slow connection or packet loss, the network is at the mercy of its transit provider as it sends traffic across the internet on whatever path it chooses.  

In contrast, Peering is the process by which two or more service provider networks connect and exchange traffic directly, which decreases the time it takes to send and receive traffic, gives more control over network paths (networks can re-route when there’s a problem) and avoids having to pay third party transit costs.

Keeping local internet traffic on local infrastructure, by allowing multiple Service Providers to peer (interconnect) with each other across a single physical port is where an Internet Exchange comes in.

What does all of this mean for your business?

Joining an Internet Exchange provides a number of advantages for the service provider, business and end user, including:

  • Cost – Service Providers negotiate peering agreements with other service providers in the exchange which lowers or eliminates routing costs. These cost reductions can then be passed on to the end user.
  • Latency – The number of “hops” the servers need to make among networks to deliver data to its final destination is reduced in an Internet Exchange, reducing the time it takes for data to travel across the network and improving quality of services such as VoIP.
  • Bandwidth – reducing the distances data needs to travel reduces the cost of bandwidth hungry applications but also increases the amount of bandwidth available for applications that do need to send data over longer distances.
  • Resilience – Because the Internet Exchange is comprised of many service providers, organisations can access connectivity from any of the members in the Internet Exchange.  Therefore, the risk of being impacted from any single provider’s failure is greatly minimized. The nature of an Internet Exchange creates contingencies and redundancies.

Why does Wales need an Internet Exchange?

There are Internet Exchanges in Scotland, Ireland, Manchester, Leeds and London, so why does Wales need an Internet Exchange too?

Well, for a start building a local networking community helps businesses to thrive, it helps galvanise a local business community and bring economic advantages. It encourages the development of locally hosted content and services and increases the appeal to businesses wanting to invest locally. Aside from the advantages mentioned above, a local Internet Exchange also means improved access to local content which means increased usage of that content, all of which is good news for businesses and the Welsh economy.

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