Did you know that the internet is powered by beer and curry?
Am at the IX Manchester meeting today. IX Manchester is an Internet Peering Exchange that allows networks local to the area to connect to each other so that internet traffic destined for each other’s networks travels by the fastest path rather than having to be backhauled to London then boomeranged back up to Manchester.
Consider the scenario of you, sat in your front room. You want to check out the opening times of your local sports centre so you look at its website. There is a chance that the sports centre had its website developed by a local company which in turn uses a local Internet Service Provider to host it.
Without localised peering the browser on your laptop would almost certainly connect to a router in London which would recognise via the Domain Name System that the website www.fitnesscentredowntheroad.com was actually just down the road from where you live and point the browser back nowf (I did start with www.localsportscentre.co.uk but that seems to be a genuine website that has just been registered and I ain’t promoting that lot nosiree)(Bob).
The opening times data would then bounce down south from the website and back up again where it would, thanks to the magic of the internet appear on the screen in front of you. Where’s the sense in that if it could just pop down the road? Shorter path = faster loading website.
Using Regional Peering Exchanges such as IX Manchester isn’t always something worth doing. Connecting cables costs money – ports in network equipment, hosting that equipment in a data centre etc. There therefore has to be a critical mass of data that wants to travel locally to make the process cost effective.
As the traffic traversing the internet continues its inexorable growth this critical mass of local bandwidth demand is becoming easier to achieve. Once you are at that critical mass the cost of this internet connectivity starts to drop below that of commercially available bandwidth (known as internet transit).
It also comes with the additional benefit of an improved customer experience. Websites as we have explained in theory load more quickly over peered connections. Faster loading websites lead to more cash – people are more likely to buy stuff online if the experience is good. I have some stats that support this which I will report in a future post.
The one other benefit of membership of peering exchanges are the meetings. These meetings connect people together over coffee in the break out sessions and at the post-meeting socials. The socials have by demand, custom and practice evolved into sessions that as often as not involve drinking lots of beer and eating spicy curry.
The heady mix of alcohol and heat is the glue that connects engineers that run networks and this, once the social mist has cleared, leads to physical network connections being made.
Today IX-Manchester has 43 members connecting over 45 ports. It would be interesting to see how many more members and connections there might be after tonight’s social which funnily enough is at a local curry house http://www.rajdoot.co.uk/.
I thought it would be worth testing to see if this site connects locally. Unfortunately Rajdoot is a Birmingham based business and uses a Birmingham based web design agency clikdesign.co.uk. There isn’t a peering exchange in Brum so I can’t show local connectivity. It seems to be hosted in the USA anyway!!
Maybe it’s only sports centres that have locally hosted websites and not curry houses.
Ah well. Anyway I’m sure it will be a nice curry and I will feel obliged to drink a few beers so as not to stand out from my peers.
Gotta go. There is a Public Affairs Update on. Need to listen.