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Dr. Peering, We’re trying to get a sense of how peering is different for content providers. Would you be a good sport and tell us a little more about that?

Bob Slydell and Bob Porter


Bobs, – Financially, the exact same math is applied for content providers as it is for Internet Service Providers. The question is, “Does Peering Make Sense?” From the Business Case for Peering we learn about how much traffic is needed to justify peering from a financial perspective. The peering break-even point may or may not by itself justify a peering approach.

It’s a question of motivations.

Everyone in the peering community sees you from a customer prospect. One ISP peering coordinator even shared that [email protected] was an alias to “[email protected]” because a request for peering with them is “a cry for help.”

Many ISPs in the U.S. believe that they have all the peering that they need. Many ISPs believe they already know who else they want to peer with. Many ISPs don’t see content providers as important peering candidates because they probably already hear those routes for free (through their existing peering relationships).

These are each motivations that content providers need to overcome.
I have worked with many content providers over the years who shared a few tips.

Top 10 Tactics for Content Provider Peering

  1. Make it clear that you aren’t interested in purchasing transit from them. You can’t be rude but you need to eliminate yourself as a sales candidate. You say that you already have transit arrangements and would never purchase from them.
  2. Sell the performance improvement aspects of peering. For certain key Internet properties this may be effective. Some ISPs for example market their low latency to popular portals – this is a card you should play.
  3. Sell the future. Internet properties with a brand have a track record of traffic growth, and since peering gets easier to justify as traffic increases, signaling that growth will help the peering coordinator justify a proactive peering approach even if the peering prerequisites are not met today.
  4. Sell the spot events and expected load that will trend off of their upstream transit. When the Reagan funeral was streamed over the Internet the spot event overloaded many network’s pipes. Highlighting these upcoming events in advance makes peering look like a preventative or protective traffic management measure rather than an asymmetric value interconnection.
  5. Sell the ease at which peering can be turned up. If you have a competent peering coordinator signals that you probably have a competent router jockey to turn up peering. No one wants to waste their time helping a peer’s newbie network engineer configure their router. Content providers don’t necessarily have a strong network engineering team so make sure you have this position filled with a competent engineer.
  6. Sell the sizzle of the content. This was called the Honey Approach in the Internet Peering Playbook: connecting tot he Core of the Internet. Everyone has heard of youTube, Yahoo!, Amazon, etc. so it is easier to understand why you would want to peer with them. Perhaps you even have positive feelings about the brand – the “sexiness” if you will of the content all helps the peering process. In the same vein as this, if possible, have some portal-relevant giveaways for the peering events. DropBox for example might gave away a couple GB of storage, Amazon might give gift cards or discount codes, you get the idea.
  7. Meet them in multiple time zones. Make sure you meet the geographic distribution requirements by being broadly available anywhere your customers are.
  8. If they come up, downplay the peering ratios requirements. Read “The Folly of Peering Ratios” and be prepared to invalidate the position that content is “asking for a free ride.”
  9. Traffic volume makes peering easier to justify – if you have massive traffic flows, prepare the business case for peering. Show the target peer how much you will both save by peering instead of sending that traffic through the nominal upstream transit service.
  10. Be open, loudly. Attend every peering event (NANOG, RIPE, GPF, IX Member Meetings), meet lots of peering people and learn from them what works and what does not. When the target ISP is in attendance, you will have experience making the case and executing your peering machinery. Don’t make the biggest peering target the one you learn on.

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