Global NREN Peering

A global peering strategy is crucial to the future of the NREN community. Establishing a joint presence in the heart of the internet ecosystem will secure unrestricted and unlimited access at the lowest possible cost. A working group initiated by AARnet, Internet2, and NORDUnet has taken the first steps. GÉANT has joined the working group, as GÉANT has decided to establish their own peering infrastructure and service to complement the work of the NRENs.

The message from NREN customers is loud and clear: The most important thing for the vast majority of users is high quality access to the internet. Even more so, as the rising use of cloud services channels a steadily increasing amount of traffic from the campuses through the research networks to cloud providers.

One global commercial IP network

- As an answer to this, NRENs should cooperate and utilize the combined network footprint and capacity to act as one global commercial IP network, says Jørgen Qvist, chief network operating officer at NORDUnet.

- In this way we can assure, that the expense of accessing the cloud networks does not begin to drive the economics of R&E networks. Being able to connect locally to cloud service providers will allow for the price of any cloud service to be reduced by lowering the ingress/egress network cost. Also, the NRENs will to be in control of their infrastructure, to allow direct connection between cloud providers and end users, to protect from political and commercial disagreements between commercial players, and to avoid cost being linked directly to the used capacity.

- So, uniting NRENs globally to achieve best possible settlement free peering, is crucially important, as it means high predictability regarding cost, improved connection quality, and maximum reachability, while not being dependent on 3rd party network agreements. As an example, 90% of traffic leaving and entering NORDUnet is through settlement free peering. This gives us lower latency, no capacity restrictions, and increased resiliency and redundancy to key networks.

High quality Internet access

According to Jørgen Qvist, +80 % of data repositories used by university researchers are on the internet. Adding to this, university teachers use a vast amount of cloud tools for network simulation and collaboration, not to mention media and streaming. And finally, universities are outsourcing everything to the cloud, from email to survey tools to basic servers.

To sum up, most NREN users primarily demand one thing: high quality access to the internet.

In response to this, the working group was formed with the task of developing a global NREN IP peering strategy proposal. The purpose was to show how the NREN world could provide commercial transit access at minimal cost, only relying on peering with other networks, major cloud service providers and content delivery networks. Together with developing the strategy, the group was also asked to build a proof of concept.

Jørgen Qvist explains:

- The working group consisted of people from NRENs that have already deployed national, regional or even international peering infrastructures, such as Internet2, AARNet and NORDUnet, representing large-scale peering capabilities and giving a representation from America, Asia Pacific and Europe.

Development opportunities

The working group has achieved what it set out to do. A global strategy statement, completed in 2013, sums up the situation and identifies development opportunities. Initially, the working group investigated if there was anything at the policy level preventing the collaboration to go forward. No showstoppers were found. From there the group started to look at technical and financial factors crucial to making the collaboration function as intended. One main limiting factor was found: the current lack of capacity between the Asia Pacific region and Europe/US.

Also, the group identified generic guidelines to be accepted by all participating partners, to make the initiative technically and financially sustainable. As an example, content delivery networks and other content providers are to be peered locally.

- We also accomplished Phase 1 of the proof of concept, involving AARNet, Internet2, NORDUnet and GÉANT, Jørgen Qvist explains.

- The POC is based on existing infrastructures, connecting Internet2, NORDUnet and GÉANT to the open exchange points in Europe and the US to gain access to the transatlantic ANA capacity. AARNet connects to Internet2 and NORDUnet on the US west coast. In this initial phase GÈANT comes in behind NORDUnet, but gets the full benefit of the NORDUnet peering infrastructure.

Phase 2 will enable GÈANT to peer with Asian and American networks directly through Internet2 and AARNet.

- With GÉANTs recent decision to setup peering with cloud providers we have as a community taken a great step in the right direction and I’m confident that we will se more progress towards a full implementation of phase 2 during 2016, says Jørgen Qvist.

- Then we will be ready to define future resource requirements and to design a cost and business model, so other NRENs can join and collaborate in improving the service to benefit all participants. And finally, NRENs will be able to act as one global commercial IP network, getting the best deals and conditions in collaborating with commercial peering partners.