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Definition

A network backbone connects multiple networks together, allowing them to communicate with each other.

Overview

Discrete networks have several ways of “talking” with each other. If you have two separate networks, say between two “Points-of-Presence” (PoP) locations, they can send traffic over the public Internet, establish encrypted tunnels over the public Internet, or link together via a dedicated physical circuit which only connects between them.

StackPath uses dedicated physical circuits, also known as “dark fiber,” between its PoPs. This results in higher performance, better security, greater operational flexibility, and serves as one of the cornerstones of the StackPath platform. Current services utilize it and future services will continue to be built on top of it.

How a Network Backbone Works

  1. Each PoP has a local switched network which is separate and discrete from the other.
  2. The network backbone is a physical circuit that connects the discrete PoPs together, allowing one PoP’s local network to communicate with a second PoP’s local network, and vice-versa.
  3. The StackPath routing table controls which traffic utilizes the network backbone.

Dedicated physical circuit vs public internet

Using a dedicated physical circuit that forms a private network backbone can improve performance by 21% compared to using the public Internet for data transit.

The nature of the public Internet is that each network (such as a network transit provider) can pass off traffic meant for another network. So Network A can send traffic to Network C via an intermediate network, Network B.

Public-internet-only@2x.png

When a content delivery company like StackPath has a private network backbone, it can bypass any intermediary network that’s part of the public Internet to deliver that content directly over long distances. And, since time losses accrue with every network the content has to cross over, fewer networks means faster data transfer.

Stackpath-private-backbone@2x.png

Example of a Network Backbone

An example of a network backbone service is StackPath’s Origin Shield. Here, one or more PoPs may be designated as an intermediate cache. On a cache miss from any individual PoP, that request is forwarded on first to the designated Origin Shield PoP before the Origin Shield makes a request to the origin.

This allows for a tremendous de-duplication in the number of requests made to the origin, reducing both the size and cost of that origin. All of these PoP-to-PoP intermediary requests flow over the network backbone, uninterrupted and quick.

Key Takeaways

  • A network backbone links otherwise discrete networks together.
  • Network backbones are dedicated circuits between PoPs, neither shared nor public.
  • The network backbone is a cornerstone of StackPath’s platform.
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