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Internet peering

What is the Internet and how peering relates to that?

An AMS-IX Story

Tatiana Cury

Tatiana Cury

Product Marketing Manager

Many of us use the internet regularly or daily. It plays an invaluable role in our society and connects all sorts of users, systems and applications. But how does the internet work? And how does peering relate to the internet? We answer these questions in this blogpost.

A vast network for exchanging information and content

The internet is a vast network that connects devices all over the world with each other. This makes it possible to exchange all sorts of information and content, varying from news and weather to statistical data and notifications.

This network consists of many small networks, which play by the same rules. These rules are defined in a protocol called the Internet Protocol. Thanks to these rules all networks connected to the internet can communicate with each other and together form the vast network that makes up the internet. As long as all participants play by the same rules, we can keep adding networks to the internet indefinitely, until all devices on earth are connected to each other.

Identifying devices by a unique number

To make this possible, each device connected to the internet is identified by a unique number: an IP address. This address allows you to identify an individual device and communicate with it.

Data that travels over the internet is nothing more than a message you send from one device to another. Your message is however not sent as a whole, but split up into many tiny data packets. This makes it possible to send a message to its destination as efficiently as possible. In reality this means that data packets related to a single message you send can travel via multiple paths over the internet to their destination. The rules defined in the Internet Protocol allow the receiving device to put the multiple packets back together and reconstruct the message.

An defining characteristic of the internet is that it's decentralized, and therefore no single point of failure exists. Data packets can travel via multiple routes to their destination. Is one of these routes unavailable? The packets can still reach their destination via one of the other available routes. Another big advantage of the decentralized nature of the internet is that no single organization, government or party controls the internet.

Internet exchanges play an invaluable role in communication between these networks. This is a place where multiple organizations come together and interconnect. These can be all sorts of organizations, from governments to telecom operators, hosting parties and managed service providers. An internet exchange helps them connect with each other cost effectively and efficiently.

What is peering?

Members of an internet exchange can sell each other passage on each other’s networks. They can, however, also decide to let each other’s workloads pass freely on their networks, without cost. This is also called peering. Peering is the voluntary interconnection of separate internet networks, often based on the concept of mutual benefit.

Peering is available in multiple forms. Public peering is the most popular form of peering and is built around internet exchanges. An internet exchange can consist of many physical locations spread throughout the world. For example, you can connect to AMS-IX directly or through a partner from more than 800 locations around the world, ranging from the Netherlands and many European countries to the US, Mexico, Africa, China, Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Members can route traffic via each other’s network free of charge and optimize connectivity to their customers.

Another popular form of peering is private peering. This type of peering is based on direct physical connections between different networks, which are private connections. Those kinds of connections are called interconnects and mainly exist between the largest networks in the world. These networks include those from hyperscalers and social media platforms.

A third form of peering is partial peering, also called regional peering. With partial peering data is only peered in a specific region of the world. This is a relevant form of peering for organizations that serve traffic only to users in a specific country, state or other geographical region. The fourth variant of peering is paid peering or partial transit. With this type of peering one of the participating networks pays the other for access. In most cases, this form of peering is relevant when one party values the agreement more than the other.

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