April 28, 2022 | 2 min read
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BGP 101: The ins and outs of Border Gateway Protocol

Salim Khouri

Director of Global Solutions Engineering

Since its introduction in 1989, BGP or Border Gateway Protocol has formed the foundation of the modern internet. It’s the mechanism that lets individual networks—known as autonomous systems—share information via IP (internet protocol), enabling users and applications to communicate with one another. It’s a highly resilient and decentralized architecture.

As a foundational protocol of the internet, BGP has let numerous networks throughout the world grow organically in their regions, and eventually interconnect with one another to become the vast collection of networks that we think of as the Internet today.

In the 30+ years since its inception, however, BGP has shown its age. The protocol is subject to multiple limitations around its use, and as a fundamental part of the Internet can accidentally cause massive networkwide outages through simple human error, as happened with Facebook's global network not long ago. This article goes over some issues with BGP—and how Expereo deals with them.

Combating BGP brittleness

BGP's inherent ability to grow and expand in a dynamic and organic manner also belies one of its weaknesses as the world's internet routing protocol: misconfiguration and human error. And that’s what happened last year when the sites of several internet giants went offline.

If misconfigured, BGP gives the “wrong instructions” to routing tables and networks worldwide and isn’t intelligent enough to correct the error itself. In the case of Facebook, this meant the world’s most popular social network stopped being reachable by the rest of the world, causing hours of anguish for millions of people.

Hop to it: BGP as a one-trick pony

The second foundational problem with BGP is that it is not network-aware. Meaning it cannot differentiate a well-performing path from a poor-performing path. The reason for this is historical: at the time of its development, BGP was constrained by the routing equipment of the era, and therefore was built to carry traffic in the most efficient way possible—which at the time was the shortest path.

But on today's Internet, the shortest path may actually be the worst-performing path. And this is where Expereo has innovated: a solution using software-defined networking (SDN) to overcome these two main shortcomings of BGP.

WAN Optimization and Enhanced Internet

With so many corporate applications now outsourced to cloud providers, the structure of corporate data has changed: applications no longer live at the corporate HQ, but at distant data centers, with services shared between thousands of sites and millions of users. Hence our technology— Expereo Enhanced Internet.

Enhanced Internet overcomes all the shortcomings of BGP by giving the protocol network awareness, essentially making it intelligent. This enables BGP to “know” the best performing path between source and destination and navigate around any outages or other issues impacting service—in real-time.

How does Enhanced Internet do this? By pulling the entire global routing table from all IP transits and peers in the Expereo network, and continually testing each route against a set of performance metrics to optimize them in real-time.

These metrics go beyond latency and packet loss. They look at past performance and internetwork peering between transits and cloud providers. Something Expereo has an advantage with, having over 120 direct peering points with tier 1 and tier 2 global networks plus hundreds of cloud providers through Internet Exchanges at Expereo's 30 global hubs—covering 21 countries today.

BGP, reconfigured for a cloud world

BGP is a workhorse; Enhanced Internet is how Expereo turns it into a thoroughbred. Keeping all its advantages and eliminating its shortcomings. If that sounds like something your global enterprise needs, let’s have a call today!

Salim Khouri

Director of Global Solutions Engineering

With over 20 years’ experience as a technology professional, Salim is the Director of Solutions Engineering to support Expereo’s managed global network and cloud connectivity solutions. His expertise includes, but is not limited to Global Internet, SD-WAN, and Security.

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