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Network-Neutral Colocation Facilities: Enablers of Peering
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March 09, 2009

Network-Neutral Colocation Facilities: Enablers of Peering

By TMCnet Special Guest
Grant Kirkwood, CTO, Mzima Networks

Public and Private Peering are the key drivers to Internet communications. So what is it, how is it done and by whom?
Peering Defined
Peering, simply stated, is the ability of two or more networks to exchange Internet traffic destined for one another’s network. This traffic exchange is facilitated by connecting the two networks together at a common point, and entering into an agreement to allow traffic to be exchanged on a “settlement-free” basis. Although Internet backbone providers and content delivery networks (CDNs) continue to argue the merits of Public Peering (interconnections utilizing a multi-party shared switch fabric, such as an Ethernet switch, enabling connectivity to all of the participants with a single physical connection) versus Private Peering (interconnections utilizing a point-to-point link directly between only two networks), the key driver of either of these peering options is a network-neutral colocation facility that enables these connections to be established.

Motivations for Peering
The value of interconnections is one of the most important functionalities of the Internet and could easily make or break a company’s ability to conduct business over the Web. ISP networks must interconnect for the same reasons telephone networks must interconnect: so users on different networks can communicate with each other.
Key peering benefits Include:
  • Increased redundancy (by reducing dependence on one or more providers)
  • Increased capacity for extremely large amounts of traffic
  • Increased routing control over your network
  • Improved network performance (often bypassing potential bottlenecks with a “direct” path)
With clear motivation, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are finding that the most ideal location for interconnections is an ISP’s facility, most likely within a colocation or data center.
Hybrid Public & Private Peering Backbone
Often today, leading network-neutral colocation facilities, such as Telx,  provide an alternative to peering — and often enable peering, in fact — which is the ability to connect to an extensive, performance-optimized backbone that may include a mix of both private peering with one or more Tier 1 network providers, as well as public peering opportunities.
Many private interconnections occur within carrier-neutral colocation facilities, also known as “carrier hotels,” where a direct cross-connect can be provisioned between participants within the same building. Additionally, private interconnections can also be created at neutral exchange sites.
A New Era of Network Performance: Tier 2 Peering
Due to the history of private peering and the stringent requirements of exchanging traffic equally, many Tier 2 Internet Service Providers were unable to meet the peering requirements of Tier 1 providers. As a result, many Tier 2 providers’ networks were built around the “edge of the network,” as Tier 1s interconnected with one another in the center or “core of the network.” This resulting “donut network,” consisting of content providers and broadband networks, became a leading asset of key Tier 2 providers by connecting to each network directly, bypassing the “core.” Today, many are leading the charge to deliver content and reach eyeballs more directly. Tier 2 providers are now interconnecting amongst themselves, and have the ability to deliver a higher quality of service more efficiently than the traditional Tier 1 providers by bypassing congested network areas. 
As a result, a well connected Tier 2 provider, such as Mzima Networks, who has invested in direct peering relationships with other Tier 2 networks, broadband networks and International telecom companies, offers enhanced performance, lower latency and cost-effective network solutions.  
Where can one find these Tier 2 providers who are leading the charge in a new era of peering and network performance?  Telx is a great example of where companies can interconnect with Mzima and other leading Tier 2 network providers. So shopping at your local, network-neutral, colocation facility--your essential marketplace for peering partners and modern Internet backbone providers is your best option.

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Edited by Erik Linask

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