The importance of Internet Exchange increased massively during the pandemic as the majority of the population of the country is has been working from. With this, the need for broadband increased and so did the demand for traffic and data. Internet service providers used these Internet exchange capabilities to meet the increasing demand for traffic and data.
Before anything, it becomes very important to understand what do we mean by Internet Exchange exactly.
Internet Exchange refers to a physical infrastructure where content delivery networks, Internet Service Providers, content providers can interconnect and exchange traffic. Internet exchange provides a collection of routes to ISPs, content providers, etc to exchange their data and traffic effectively to be able to share their content and network uninterruptedly and help the internet to work seamlessly. A few of the main things that Internet Exchange provides help regarding are that it allows access to content to users regardless of their demographics, their geographical location, and their nature of the business. It helps reducing reliance on transit providers that are intermediary leading to reduced cost and enhanced experience in terms of consumption of the online content and services.
So in simple words, Internet exchange or Internet Exchange Point is a location from where Internet Service Providers and Content Distribution Network can connect to facilitate traffic and reduce cost. This is done by providing a private presence inside the IXP to the companies helping them shorten the distance for transits arriving from different other participants.
How does the Internet exchange point work?
IXPs are one or more physical locations that have got a combination of networks with other networks majorly to drive and transfer traffic. This way they share the cost for not having their infrastructure and similar associated services. IXPs are built with interconnected ethernet switches throughout one or more physical infrastructure and these are large layer 2 LANs.
For the past twenty years, there has been a massive expansion of networks and network interconnection leading to the huge expansion of the global Internet. New data center facilities have been introduced to house network equipment as a part of this expansion.
Why Are IXPs Considered So Important?
If IXPs would not have been there, they would have to depend on an intermediary network that could carry the particular traffic from their source to the destination. These intermediary networks are called Transit providers. Now many a time, it becomes quite difficult to maintain direction networking connections with every ISP present in the world and would be even more difficult to maintain the flow of such a large portion of international internet traffic. When using a backbone ISP for carrying local traffic, it could prove to be disadvantageous as this carrier sometimes sends data to another network operating in a different city. This leads to something called Tromboning where sometimes, traffic destined to reach other ISP operating in the same city can even travel huge distances and return to the same position. However, when a CDN operates with IXP, the IXP helps in the optimization of the path taken by the traffic transfer meaning that inefficient paths would be cut off to promote the smoother transfer of data and traffic.
Now, let us talk about Internet Backbone protocol and what do we understand by Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). BGP allows networks to communicate with each other regarding their internal requirements and about their configuration of the network edge.
How is the traffic shared between different networks?
Transit is a paid service, it is an agreement that lies between the large ISP, (that is responsible for providing internet access to local ISPs), also called upstream provider and the customer. IP addresses are passed on towards the transit provides using Border Gateway Protocol which is further passed on towards the rest of the internet globally.
Peering is how networks share IP addresses without an intermediary operating between them called a transit. Networks associated with internet exchange points cost nothing for transferring data and traffic as long as they are a member. Also, when data and traffic are transferred from one network to another for free, this kind of relationship is called settlement-free peering.
Peering and paid transit
For some networks, however, the cost for transferring data and traffic is not always free. For instance, many large networks, that have equal market share, tend to peer with other large networks while also charging smaller networks for peering service.
When a particular network decides to end their peering arrangement, they follow a process called deepering. Deepering happens due to many reasons, one of which being when one party seems to be benefiting more than the other parties in terms of having a bad traffic ratio and also when a network starts charging the other network more in comparison.