New Peering Coordinator

Question

DrPeering - 


I’m a senior NetEng, now assigned to also serve as peering coordinator. sigh. Never did this before.


Our E-Team has determined that our envisioned optimized connectivity blend (multi-homing and peering) is strategic. They expect a monthly status report tracking progress towards being 40% peered. 


How do you recommend I get started?


Peter Russo

Answer

Peter - 


Thanks for the note. I have helped new peering coordinators go through this process. 


Embrace this career challenge that faces you, learn the fundamentals, take advice from those that have gone down the path before, and enjoy the learning experience!


Here are my top ten recommendations for mentored new peering coordinators:


1) Read The 2014 Internet Peering Playbook: Connecting to the Core of the Internet. 


Not a surprising recommendation, I know. But this book contains the foundation of knowledge that most of the peering coordinators have instilled in them. It is a simple task to absorb the material, learn and apply the terminology. After this, you will be able to follow most peering discussions at peering events today.


If you don’t want to (or can’t) get the book, the DrPeering.net website has a set of tutorials on the home page that will help you get started.


Become a sponge - draw from as many on-line resources and personal interactions as possible. There are a ton of on-line resources about peering. Search the web for peering policies, peering presentations, IXP status updates, etc. You will need to assimilate this diverse set of documents, but the peering coordinator community consistently demonstrates that they are open to sharing information and pointing people in the right direction.


2) Your Top 50 Hit list.


Perform the traffic analysis necessary to determine where your traffic is going to and coming from. This may involve using some public domain netflow collection and reporting tools, or purchasing one of the many commercial routing analysis tools (Arbor PeakFlow for example). 


Intuition works as well. Some peering coordinators instead rely on intuition and a couple simple rules:

Content loves Eyeballs

Eyeballs love Content


So if you are a content company, any network that you meet with eyeballs attached to it becomes an attractive peering candidate. Conversely, an access network is looking to peer with recognized name brands with enough traffic and value to justify the peering relationship. This is overly simple, but as a first order target list, this works.


3) Peering is a game of relationships - to build, maintain, and grow these relationships you will travel about once a month to various peering events.


Armed with your foundation knowledge about peering, your familiarity with your network, with your networks traffic patterns, and with your top 50 list, you are ready for your first peering discussions.


I used to accompany new peering coordinators in the DrPeering peering mentor program on their first five peering meetings. Here they learn the pattern of discussion. 


Most peering discussions start out with a description of the networks, what the networks offer each other, the expected traffic volumes or other value that would make you attractive to peers. Locations in common are discussed, and network peering requirements are discussed. The talk is finished with next steps, sometimes including non-disclosure agreements, the exchange of network maps, etc.


After about 5-7 peering meetings, the peering coordinator usually has the comfort level and confidence to go off on their own for the remainder.


4) Don’t be a Customer Prospect.


During the network peering requirements discussion, your peer will sometimes suggest that you should instead buy paid peering or transit from them. 


“If you don’t meet our strict peering prerequisites, then we do have this paid peering / transit derivative product that costs less than you are paying for Internet Transit.”


The problem is that this discussion effectively derails the peering discussion and puts you into the customer prospect bucket. If you let the discussion go down this path, there is no chance of free peering for you, especially now that some sales guy has you targeted for your transit purchase. Return to the value discussion straight away - talk about what you bring to the table as a peer and make it clear that there is no chance of you being a customer.


Consider the paid peering and transit discussion as a last resort. One novice peering coordinator told me he asked for paid peering first and was surprised that the free peering discussion never got off the ground after that. DO NOT LEAD WITH PAID PEERING.


Caution: It is worth noting here that some “peering coordinators” at these events don’t actually peer, but instead use peering forums for lead generation. Some even have changed their title to “interconnect liaison” or some such title to mask the fact that they are essentially in sales. Any peering discussion with them is really a sales call. You should make them pay for an expensive lunch if you are forced to endure their deception.


Understand and tune into the peer’s motivations.


Peering Coordinators represent their company peering inclinations in peering forums, whether they believe in them or not. You will discover much controversy and drama surrounding peering strategies, who is being de-peered and why, and whether peering makes sense. There are two sides to every peering story. Try to understand their underlying motivations. Empathize with their rationale and more information will flow. In these streams of information flow will be a few gold nuggets that will be handy in later discussions / negotiations. This is an education and intel gathering exercise, but it also is a way to get to know people and get into the peering community.


For example, you may learn that a cable company broke off peering discussions once they found out that they were supplying customers with set top boxes to accelerate their video delivery service. For some cable companies, this “set-top-box” is a threat, so learning from this story may help you shape your video distribution story line to be more palatable to this peer.


6) Befriend the ones who know everyone.


There are veterans in the industry that have attended enough events for enough years that they seem to know everyone. And they do. Seek them out - you will tend to recognize them as regulars when you attend your third peering event.  If you are cordial, friendly, they may help you with introductions or pointing people out to you.


Also leverage the IXP peering liaisons - they typically know many of their customers, and have the added incentive of wanting you as a member of their peering population. If they help you, then maybe someday you will become a member of their IXP. Win-Win.


Bring lots of business cards, take lots of notes.


I recommend taking notes during peering discussions, except when sensitive or private information is being disclosed. Nothing turns people off more quickly than when you start writing things down that they mention to you in confidence. They are communicating trust by sharing, and writing down these things brings that trust into question. If your memory is bad, then jot down notes sometime, away from and after the meeting.


Why take notes?


You will have so many meetings that all of these discussions will blend together. You will misremember interesting stories or mistakenly attribute a data point to the wrong person or company. Much of the value of these peering events is derived from the discussions you have in the hallway. Writing these things down forces you to articulate and assimilate the marketing intel that you pick up in the field.


Introverts, become extroverts.


While it is not a hard and fast rule, peering coordinators tend to have a wonderful mix of technical, social, legal, and business skills. They thirst for information, can speak with confidence about their network and its value, and can create the strongest argument for peering possible. If this is not you today, then you will work on it to be effective at this job.


Send the same person to all peering events.


A common mistake is to rotate who gets to go to a peering event. The problem is that no single person gets enough face time to make them a regular at the event. You will have to chase down peering candidates rather than someone knowing that you are the person to see.This makes it more difficult to get the discussions going, to get the peering in place.


Have fun.


You will be traveling to exotic locations and to parties over the world on someone else’s dime. You will be establishing friendships with people that build the reach and power of your people network. These folks may refer business or help you find the next job, help solve a problem, share what is required to get peering with company X, etc. The research shows that a person with many weak social ties is more powerful than a person with only a few strong relationships. This is because these weak relationships provide information flow that you probably don’t already have, but your close friends have probably already shared everything with you already.


There you go - that should get you going.




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