Network Peering and IP Transit: Why It’s Not Enough for You to Simply Understand the Difference.

When we send an Excel spreadsheet to a colleague in another city or a large graphics file to a customer in another country, we rarely, if ever, think about how it’s going to get there. What route will it take? How long will it take? Will it even arrive? Because no one network is large enough to connect every business around the globe, the movement of data across the Internet requires the connection of multiple networks to get your data from your location to its destination.

The two, primary means of interconnection are peering and transit. In this post we’ll compare the differences, learn how connectivity is usually managed in a data center environment and how we at MULTACOM do things differently.

Peering and Transit Defined

Network Peering

Often called network peering or Internet peering, peering enables the transfer of data between two networks that are directly connected. As a result of this direct connection, businesses on each network can only send data to the other network. No intermediary or third-party network is used to exchange traffic from one peer to the other.

This exchange of traffic between two ISPs can be either paid or open. As the name implies, paid peering provides for payment between the two companies. Open peering is the voluntary interconnection between two ISPs who have agreed that no payment for services will be required.

IP Transit

While network peering directly connects two separate networks, IP transit resides outside the peered network connection, giving you access to all routes. For example, networks A and C may have a peered connection with a direct route to each other’s network. Network A must now transmit data to Network M but doesn’t have a direct connection. IP transit enables network A to pay a third-party network (Network B) to deliver its data to a destination on Network M. Traffic can be delivered to any destination on the transit provider’s network or another provider’s network. These indirect network connections are common because most ISPs don’t have a global or even national network footprint.

Benefits of Peering

While IP transit is the most commonly used Internet service, there are three significant benefits to network peering:

• Low Latency and Better User Experience
Because peering directly connects two networks, it decreases the distance the data must travel and the time it takes to get to its destination. This decrease in time between the two points results in lower latency and a better user experience.

• Greater Redundancy
A data center does not peer with one single network provider but with multiple providers. Not only does this reduce dependencies on a single peer but also on transit providers. Because data can be re-routed from one peer to another with a similar path, client data can continue to flow as normal and a separate transit provider may not be needed.

• Cost Savings
By routing data directly through a peered network, a data center can reduce the amount of data which must be transported by a transit provider which enables the data center to save money on transit costs.

Why Not All Peering is Created Equal

Since peering is defined as the direct connection of two separate networks, you would think that selecting a data center solely based on their number of peered connections would be ideal for your IT needs, but that’s not necessarily true. You need to dig a bit further and ask additional questions. It’s critical to know where those network connects are located.

A data center may tell you that they’re peered with 100 different networks. While that may sound great, what they haven’t told you is where they’re connecting to those networks. If a data center is peered to multiple networks but all the network connections are located in a single building, what will happen to your ability to conduct business if the whole building goes down? Loss of power or connectivity to a whole facility will result in all peered connections in that facility going down – with no way for your data center provider to transfer your data from one peered network to another.

The connection to multiple networks via one or two facilities is quite common and typically deployed by data centers whose only goal is to reduce transit costs and save as much money as possible.

How MULTACOM Does Network Interconnection Differently

When the primary goal of a data center is to simply cut costs, the benefits of low latency and redundancy are ignored.

At MULTACOM, we take a different approach with our peering and transit strategy. Our highest priority is not to simply reduce costs but to continually improve the quality of our network for our clients.

At MULTACOM, we focus on quality peering and optimizing routes by:

• Having a Purpose-Built Network
Our MULTACOM network has been purpose-built with the high-availability needs of our clients top of mind. Redundant and divergent fiber paths connect directly to separate and distinct ISPs, large and small, to provide the most direct and dependable network connections around the world.

• Maximizing Network Access and Direct Connections
MULTACOM continually evaluates its network connections. We increase peering arrangements with individual ISPs and transit interconnections when needed or shut down peer connections or change transit providers as necessary to optimize MULTACOM network performance.

• Utilizing Automated Network Optimization Software
Our network connections, whether peer or transit, are continually monitored and evaluated using network optimization software. If one network path is determined to be faster than another, client data is rerouted automatically to ensure that our clients always benefit from the fastest route.

• Selecting Paths with the Most Redundancy
While partnering with multiple peers located in the same building may be less expensive, it also causes a single point of failure if that building goes down, causing all network connections to be down at the same time. At MULTACOM, our primary objective is to seek out alternate paths with the same amount of capacity to withstand a possible outage. While implementing a peering and transit strategy which includes multiple providers in many different physical locations can be more expensive, it significantly increases redundancy and helps ensure that if one location goes down, another network in a different location is able to immediately takeover.

• Evaluating Which Network Completes Our Reach
Since no single transit provider offers full reach across the United States or around the globe, the same end destination may be available via a number of different transit providers. To determine which transit will work best for our clients, we fully evaluate each route, assessing which network actually completes our reach and, at the same time, delivers the best performance, rather than simply comparing them on cost.

While you may already understand the differences between network peering and transit, and you may ask potential data center providers with whom you speak about their interconnection strategy, you need to dig deeper. What is their approach to redundancy? What is most important to them when it comes to network connectivity? How many distinctly separate routes do they have in place to ensure that there is no single point of failure? Their answers should instill confidence in you that their primary focus is to meet and exceed your latency requirements rather than simply seeking out the least expensive interconnection solution.