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BLOG: Why ISPs are triple winners

Gary Newbold | Nov. 4, 2013
ISPs are triple winners as IXP networks cut costs and latency while increasing bandwidth

Increasing numbers of the world's strategically important Internet service providers (ISPs) are migrating to a new technology that reduces the cost of their networks, cuts latency and increases bandwidth. They are moving to the Internet Exchange Point (IXP) network.

IXP networks enable ISPs to connect their networks directly, reducing cost and latency while increasing bandwidth. Traffic that is exchanged through a local IXP helps to better utilise third-party network links that often traverse other countries or continents. In essence, IXPs help the Internet to run better.

An Internet service provider claiming the world's greatest reach has achieved spectacular success using IXP network technology.  LINX - the London Internet Exchange - future-proofed its huge global network with IXP ahead of the London Olympics.

IXP's exchange points enable ISPs to peer, providing a transit point to exchange data traffic locally over high-speed Ethernet LANs. Industry leading switches are widely deployed in 40 GbE/10 GbE/1 GbE IXP networks around the world, and IXP deployments include core and access layers that provide Layer-2 or Layer-3 subscriber services to enable local ISPs to communicate with each other.

Key requirements

Key requirements for IXP networks include bandwidth provisioning and bandwidth allocation; flexible connectivity options (such as interface speeds, supported optics and distance); low latency; and ease of service provisioning and monitoring.

Typically IXP networks are designed with non-blocking core bandwidth capacity that is provisioned to ISP subscriber clients via access switches. Core switches utilise link aggregation groups (LAGs) with up to 16 or 32 member links per LAG, while access switches utilise multi-switch link aggregation (M-LAG) with as many member links. These technologies provide link redundancy and resiliency which increases fault tolerance as well as flexible bandwidth aggregation.

IXPs use a variety of hardware and software features to offer services and this requires use of sophisticated techniques to offer the required Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

Virtual local area network (VLAN), virtual metropolitan area network (VMAN) and virtual private LAN service (VPLS) services are used by IXPs to provision network services, while providing service isolation between ISP clients. These services can be provisioned and monitored in real time with a suitable network management platform.

IXPs provide Layer-2 and Layer-3 subscriber services to multiple ISPs enabling point-to-point connectivity with guaranteed network bandwidth. Non-blocking switches with link aggregation provide the framework for IXPs to build high bandwidth network infrastructure that can be provisioned for inter-ISP traffic. Link aggregation (LAG) and multi-switch link aggregation (M-LAG) enables active-active inter-switch links, increasing bandwidth, availability and network resiliency.

Rate limiting and rate policing (shaping) features help to manage bandwidth allocation in IXP networks. Switches that support ingress and egress rate limiting and egress rate shaping are often used to manage bandwidth allocation and guaranteed bandwidth provisioning in IXP networks.


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