What is Peering?

Definition: Internet Peering is the business relationship whereby two companies reciprocally provide access to each other’s customers.

Internet Peering is typically settlement-free, meaning that neither party pays the other for access to each other’s customers, reflective of the underlying notion that peering is a relationship of approximately equal value to each party. Since both parties benefit about the same from the relationship, there is no need to bother with the overhead of measurement and settlement.

There is also no standard way to calculate and monitor the absolute value derived from a peering relationship. Is the value of the peering relationship proportional to the volume of traffic freely peered bidirectionally? Or is it proportional to the desirability or uniqueness of the routes? Or is the value the number of people reached?

For these and other reasons, the dominant form of peering is settlement-free. When you see the term “peering” from this point on, it means settlement-free peering.

To illustrate Internet Peering, consider the mini-Internet Peering Ecosystem shown in the figure below with only three ISPs: WestNet, MidNet, and EastNet.

Peering Diagram

Using graphical peering notation, we see that:

After these two peering sessions are established, the routing tables are in place (as graphically shown as colored circles in the “routing table” beneath the ISP clouds). This diagram shows that MidNet peers with both EastNet and WestNet, and therefore MidNet customers can reach both EastNet and WestNet customers.




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The 2014 Internet Peering Playbook is now available on the iPad at the Apple Store and for the Amazon Kindle. The Kindle, ePub and PDF form are also perpetually updated on the DrPeering DropBox share.