Free peering has a cost

Lately, there has been some discussion about the pricing of Internet Exchanges (IXes) and the reasons behind free peering ports and paid peering ports. In this article, I want to go over some of the benefits and pitfalls of both. 

Free peering
Everyone loves free. Sure, we all do. While most free peering has costs associated, those costs are usually in the form of cross-connect charges. In some data centers, this can be a one-time fee to many hundreds of dollars a month for a typical cross-connect. Herein lies the rub. Any entity providing services to others needs to have money for equipment upgrades, labor, accounting expenses, and costs of operation. This money can come in the form of donations from members or outside sources. A non-profit can be the vehicle for this, but you still need funding to support the entity. If the labor is volunteer, what happens if the most active volunteers get pulled away due to personal or business-related obligations? Do things still run? Is there a plan in place to fix any issues? I am not saying it can’t be done, but life happens. When it comes down to it, most people will choose their family’s welfare over a volunteer gig.

Paid Peering
On the flip side, we have IXes, which charge port fees and other fees for peering. These fees go equipment and operational costs and sometimes salaries. Paid peering costs….well money.

The biggest question to ask yourself is how stable the company is. It does not matter if they are giving away ports or charging. What matters is are they going to be able to provide you service when things get busy, outages happen, or things get busy. When peering becomes more and more critical to a health network and your company’s bottom line, these questions also become essential. It does not matter if it is free or paid if the IX isn’t able to provide service. This scenario can happen on an IX, which charges no money or charges money for a port.