With the internet now an essential part of modern daily life, keeping its underlying infrastructure in good working order is vital.
While we think of it as a global network, the internet actually comprises many smaller networks that have been interconnected. It’s these peering relationships between carriers that allow traffic to flow to and from almost any part of the world.
In the Asia-Pacific region, many peering data centres have traditionally been heavily focused on domestic traffic. While there have been some limited international peering relationships in place (some open, some closed), according to industry experts the majority of usage has consisted of data streams passing between users and content providers within the country with only a relatively small amount transiting outside the country.
This has been particularly the case in Japan. While broadband penetration and internet usage is very high among the population, the majority of traffic is domestic in nature. Experts say the major internet exchanges in Tokyo and Osaka, as well as some regional exchanges, primarily deal with Japan-to-Japan data flows.
Yet this is now changing. As users demand better access to content from markets such as the United States, network operators are having to re-think their peering relationships. While not neglecting their existing domestic agreements, they are needing to look further afield – both to other countries in the region and to the US and Europe.
One driver is the increasingly globalised nature of business. Organisations which once interacted mostly with domestic partners and customers are now expanding their operations around the world.
This is being complemented by the growth in cloud-based services and storage. Often such resources are not located in the same country as users, resulting in increased foreign traffic.
Another driver has been the rapid rise in consumption of internet television and music services. High traffic volumes and the demand for consistent and reliable services mean strong peering links are important.
However in some Asia-Pacific markets, meeting this growing demand is becoming a challenge. According to our observations of the industry, many data centres were built years ago, are already heavily loaded and lack sufficient space to allow new and expanded peering connexions.
Also, it’s often not possible to connect with all potential peering partners in a single data centre. In these cases, a presence must be established in a number of different data centres and then links arranged between them.
For this reason, it’s important that peering data centres have a range of connectivity options. Redundant links and access to a number of global network operators provides options and ensures alternatives are available should any failures occur. Links should also be able to provide the capacity that will be required to meet times of peak demand.
We are definitely trying to assist in this effort. As an example, last year Digital Realty announced partnerships with the Singapore Internet Exchange (SGIX) and network operator BlueTel Networks. The partnerships will provide users with greater and more cost-effective connectivity and peering options in Singapore. And considering our data centres are linked around the globe, enterprises could connect to the internet exchanges in each of our facilities.
Meanwhile, on a positive front, the cost of internet back-haul capacity in Asia-Pacific has come down, particularly between large centres such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. In other areas costs are dropping but there is still some way to go.
It’s clear that further investment in new peering data centres will be very important for the ongoing development of internet-based services throughout the Asia-Pacific region. New peering relationships require data centre resources and trying to cram more into existing centres is really only a short-term fix.
Creating these new peering data centres will take time, but that makes it all the more important for development to begin immediately. In this way, Asia-Pacific countries will be well placed to deal with an increasingly global business world.