Network Effect and Route Servers on the Internet Exchange Point

This entry will give a simple view of route servers, explaining the value of a route server to the Internet community.

If the intent of an Internet exchange point/IXP is to

  1. Reduce operational expenses
  2. Increase performance with reduced latency
  3. Add additional disaster recovery capacity

The additional value of a route server is to take all of the above, and add a measure of simplicity to the process of interconnecting Internet-enabled networks.

Wikipedia defines an Internet Exchange Point/IXP as:

An Internet exchange point (IX or IXP) is a physical infrastructure that allows different Internet service providers (ISPs) to exchange Internet traffic between their networks (autonomous systems) by means of mutual peering agreements, which allow traffic to be exchanged without cost. IXPs reduce the portion of an ISP’s traffic which must be delivered via their upstream transit providers, thereby reducing the Average Per-Bit Delivery Cost of their service. Furthermore, the increased number of paths learned through the IXP improves routing efficiency and fault-tolerance. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_exchange_point)

An additional definition needed to better understand the concept of route servers in “Internet Peering.”  Again we will go to the Wikipedia:

“Peering is voluntary interconnection of administratively separate Internet networks for the purpose of exchanging traffic between the customers of each network. The pure definition of peering is settlement-free or “sender keeps all,” meaning that neither party pays the other for the exchanged traffic, instead, each derives revenue from its own customers.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peering

The route server adds additional value by allowing a “connect once, connect with all” utility to the IXP. The route server is a technology where IXP members agree to “peer” with the route server, and the route server makes that member’s network or routing information available to all other route server members.  The other members will then be able to “peer” with all other participating members in an open, settlement-free environment.

This is extremely valuable for smaller Internet networks, content delivery networks/CDNs, and VoIP companies who may not have all the time and skills to develop individual relationships with many different networks.  With the route server a network will peer once with the route server, and immediately establish peering sessions with all other participants.

The network effect of peering through a route server can be dramatic.  Depending on the size of a network, the network may represent one or more “routes” to the rest of the Internet community.  Each route becomes valuable to the rest of the peering community, as it represents another location on the Internet which can be reached without the need for paying “transit” fees to a larger network.  Using the law of exponents, you can calculate the network effect of a route server community by giving a value of 1 to each represented route.  The overall value then becomes one of understanding the number of potential individual relationships available within the community.

The formula for network effect is:

N(N-1)/2.  Thus if a route server represents 225 potential routes, then the formula would look like 225(225-1)/2 = 25,200 potential individual routes available simply by peering a network with an IXP’s route server. Every additional route that becomes available on the route server (by adding additional members) adds an exponential value to the “route server community.”

CRG West’s Any2 Exchange operates a very popular route server called Any2Easy.  This route server (as of Nov 2008) has 80 participating networks, representing more than 15,000 individual routes.  The simplicity and availability of routes possible through settlement-free peering allows many smaller networks to significantly reduce their operating expenses and focus time and money on building their business.

Learn more about route servers through Wikipedia, using the tag “route server” in your browser search, or by reviewing an operational route server at http://www.crgwest.com/Any2Exchange/any2easy.html

About johnsavageau
Another telecom junkie who has been bouncing around the international communications community for most of the past 35 years.

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