Why Carrier IP Peering is a Major Issue for Real-Time Traffic

December 3, 2018

The core of the Internet is based on a plethora of peering agreements between the various carriers that transport IP traffic. These peering relationships are complex both financially and operationally. Peering disruptions, as recent events show, can significantly impact UCaaS and other real-time cloud traffic delivery.

Peering Problems Impact Peering Partners

For example, in my No Jitter article  about cloud availability issues, I discussed a number of events reported on downdetector.com that give insight into the challenges of operating cloud solutions. One event was a RingCentral outage on April 3. The outage was one of several outages in that timeframe.

In discussing the issue with Curtis Peterson, RingCentral’s SVP of Cloud Operations, he indicated that at least a previous outage impacting RingCental users on March 15, 2018 for about six hours was, in fact, caused by Comcast peering issues with certain other carriers. This had a significant impact on the ability to provides services and complete calls for UCaaS users on Comcast. While it was documented on RingCentral, the issue would have impacted any real-time traffic peering to Comcast.

Peering issues can also be specific between carriers and not across all of the peering paths. For example, a new release of software for routers in Carrier A has an issue with the router software in Carrier B. The result is a significant degradation in capacity and latency across the peering connection. However, connections to Carrier C that uses the same router vendor as Carrier A will continue to work. If the issues are intermittent, routing protocols may put real-time sessions into that path even though there are real-time performance problems with that path.

What SD-WANs Can Do About Peering Problems

The challenge is that there are few ways to either determine or react in real time to an issue like this if the paths are constrained by the Carriers and their routing agreements. By deploying an SD-WAN solution, the underlying issues in the path can be identified and analyzed. Connections can be moved to paths that are built on other peering relationships that are not impacted.

A core capability of SD-WAN solutions is the ability to determine on a flow path any issues. Advanced SD-WAN solutions include specific analysis for real-time characteristics like latency and jitter. This enables the identification of paths that include peering points that may be having issues. As virtually all carriers have multiple connections to other carriers, this assures that any paths impacted by peering can be avoided.

An OTT SD-WAN provider, like Cato Networks, includes a private interconnect as well. The private interconnect routes traffic between the PoPs over a private transport interconnect. This further reduces the impact of peering by generally avoiding any intermediate peering connections. This is especially important if the session path is international or across regional geographies that have different major IP Access Providers. A private interconnect can avoid core internet peering issues as well as congestion.

My Take

For organizations and leaders looking to optimize their organization use of technology and reduce cost, deploying an SD-WAN is an ideal way to provide value. SD-WAN solutions minimize the issue of peering disruptions while optimizing other issues. Clearly, discussing the range of peering is something that should be discussed when selecting an IP access provider. With an advanced SD-WAN and an access provider with the right connections, the use of the Internet for real-time is much more reliable.


Phil Edholm is the President and Founder of PKE Consulting. PKE consults to end users and vendors in the communications and networking markets. Prior to founding PKE, Phil was Vice President of Technology Strategy and Innovation for Avaya and before that he was CTO/CSO for the Nortel Enterprise business where he led the development of VoIP solutions and multimedia communications as well as IP transport technology. Phil is recognized as an industry leader and visionary. In 2007, he was recognized by Frost and Sullivan with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Growth, Innovation and Leadership in Telecommunications. He has been recognized by the IEEE as the originator of “Edholm’s Law of Bandwidth” as published in July 2004 IEEE Spectrum magazine and as one of the “Top 100 Voices of IP Communications" by Internet Telephony magazine. Phil was a member of the IEEE 802.3 standards committee, developed the first multi-protocol network interfaces, and was a founder of the Frame Relay Forum. Phil has 13 patents and holds a BSME/EE from Kettering University.