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The Future of Peering: Opportunities and Obstacles

Earlier this year, Interxion brought together some of the world’s leading specialists to discuss the Future of Peering. The result was a whitepaper that proved so popular, Interxion invited the contributors to debate the opportunities and obstacles in greater depth, in-front of a full house at TechUK in London.

By: Michael Rabinowitz

Beginning with a look to the future it was stated that 5G connections, 10GB per second download speeds and Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) will be the norm in most homes and businesses in the next five years. However, before we get to this point, some fundamental connectivity issues need to be addressed and that there are undoubtedly some challenging times ahead.

One of the main issues troubling Neil McRae, Chief Architect at BT, is a “worrying lack of innovation in the networking and peering space”. Neil observes that IP traffic is not increasing at the rate it once was. It’s clear that there’s much work to be done to innovate, market and up-sell to the masses, so that there will be significant value-add in paying more for peering services. Kurtis Lindqvist, Chief Marketing Officer at LINX argued that innovation is being hampered to a large extent by the centralised and non-scalable way in which networks have historically been built.

Neil sees localisation as key, highlighting that: “The strategy at BT is to serve as much content as possible from within the network. It helps with cost, but it is more about the customer experience”. Elaborating on the issue of cost, Mark Cooper, EVP Europe at Megaport added that it is about the total cost of interconnection: “The price of transit has got to such a low level it is not as important anymore. What is important is how much you are paying for your cross-connects”.

Neil’s focus on experience was echoed by Gaurab Raj Upadhaya, Director of Network Strategy and Interconnection at Limelight Networks: “What we are concerned with is how to serve content better and how we get closer to the user”. Gaurab went on to make the point that there are still places around the world that do not have exchange points and in these cases IP transit remains essential.  Reinforcing the importance of transit, Richard Irving, Director at LONAP said: “If you are a small cloud company and you are only operating on one market such the UK then you rely on transit”. He added that peering helps to increase the surface area of the network and as such helps to protect against the likes of DDOS attacks.

The trend towards localisation was reinforced by Kurtis: “Traffic is becoming highly localised and in-network”. He argued that the future growth of traffic on the Internet won’t happen across transit or peering, but that it will happen inside the access networks. He points to the UK, that to his knowledge, already has a higher number of Private Network Interconnects (PNI’s) than any other European country – with the exception of Italy. Gaurab suggests that: “If you take the top ten networks out of the equation, then there is already massive localisation”.

Neil also highlighted how the approach towards interconnect is still manual and, whilst there are elements that are valuable, in a world where Instagram runs off a scripted programming language, the industry seems to have lost its ‘automation spirit’. He warns that how the industry matures in this space will have a significant impact on how successful the interconnect path ultimately will be. Focusing on the positive he stressed that: “If we put our minds to it, we could probably automate all of it”. Mark added: “Automation will drive the innovation in the platforms.”

Whilst automation in its many guises is set to play an important role in the future of the industry, the panel also placed huge importance on the people working within it, and the challenge to ensure that the right talent is equipped with the right skills to innovate and respond to the increasing global demand for better connectivity and content delivery.   

What was clear across the spirited discussion is that the industry is at a critical juncture. Capitalising on the opportunities of the next generation of connectivity, while addressing the lack of innovation currently hindering the networks, will be vital to fundamentally improving customer experience and setting the course to a thriving future in the peering field.

To learn more about how the public peering market is evolving in the face of new customers, competition and technologies, download our in-depth industry report.