The Great Exchange

From: Pickett, David (no email)
Date: Wed May 27 1998 - 12:05:57 EDT

It's evident, from reading through all of the responses to my questions
on exchange of Internet traffic, that there are a lot of problems in
this space, but not a lot of agreement on how to address them. Here are
some summary observations based on group-wide communication, and notes
sent to me directly.

1) More needs to be done to leverage locality of traffic

Some great examples were given wherein simple cross-state connections
were accomplished via an exchange point some one thousand miles away, a
clearly sub-optimal arrangement. Fixing this problem was a point of
some contention. Some said to forget about national exchange points,
and just make private peering arrangements. Others noted that local
exchange points are springing up in the areas that need them. Often
these exchange points are the product of local ISPs working
cooperatively, sometimes with the assistance of a corporate sponsor.
Still others noted some commercial enterprises that are building an
infrastructure and business model around the need for decent peering
arrangements. To add complexity to this issue, differences arose over
implementation details of a national peering system that preserved
locality of traffic. Some advocated a hierarchical model, tiered if you
will, that frankly sounded a lot like 5-level PSTN switching model.
Others advocated a flatter model, although how that model relieves
traffic at the core, and leverages locality remains to be seen.

2) Who dropped the packet?

You can't fit 20 gallons of water in a ten gallon hat, at least not all
at once. Oversubscription generated some heated comments from various
factions. It is clear that one person's oversubscription is another
person's unethical business practice. So, just how do we handle the
delicate topic of oversubscription? Where is it okay to oversubscribe?
Where can it absolutely not be tolerated? Oversubscription is
fundamental to the design of many network switches, and is an essential
aspect of many network technologies, and business plans. It's here.
It's reality. How does one use it responsibly? A lot of finger
pointing was done in the area of highly asymmetric and grossly
underprovisioned connections to the Internet. What policies might
mitigate such problems? Thoughts?

3) Internet SLAs and customer verification

There was a modest amount of chest beating around verifiable levels of
service. Nobody came right out and proposed Internet SLAs, but some did
suggest that it would be nice to give the customer the tools for
verifying the level of performance delivered by their access provider.
This is an interesting angle, and we've seen evidence in the industry of
some providers giving the customer limited ability to access this kind
of information. NDAs seems to be at the heart of this problem. What
tools do the ISPs need to provide this kind of information to the
customer? Do the ISPs even want to provide this information? Is it
pointless to provide this information since so much of the customer's
total performance picture is dependent on factors that can't be
controlled by the ISP?


David R. Pickett
Northchurch Communications Inc
5 Corporate Drive
Andover, MA 01810

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