Peering: EDGE-IX, JANET, Nominet

March 5th, 2010 by

Over the last few years, we’ve been investing heavily in increasing both our network’s capacity and its redundancy.  We now have multiple gigabit upstream providers spread across our three London sites, allowing us to host very high bandwidth sites with a high level of redundancy.

Part of this work is to increase the number of peering agreements that we have in place.  Peering is an arrangement where two networks agree to exchange traffic directly with each other for their mutual benefit, rather than paying to send it by a third party (a transit provider).  Peering has two benefits:

  1. it reduces overall bandwidth costs; and
  2. it typically provides a much more direct, and therefore quicker, route between the two networks.

Usually the first one is the important one: our marginal cost of bandwidth goes down, and we can reflect these savings in our own prices.

At the end of last year we joined EDGE-IX, a distributed internet exchange that gives us the ability to peer with some networks that we don’t see at other internet exchanges. Most notably, we now have peering in place with two big end-user networks: JANET (the UK’s education and research network) and Virgin Media (formerly NTL).

Sometimes the second point can be important. For example, users of Nominet’s Domain Availability Checker (DAC) are often extremely sensitive to latency, with a few milliseconds making a lot of difference. We received an enquiry from a prospective customer interested in using Nominet’s DAC service. This prompted us to set up a peering arrangement with Nominet, and by providing the customer with a Mac Mini dedicated server in one of our London data centres we were able to offer just about the fastest route physically possible to Nominet’s network.