January 24, 2008 4:00 AM PST
Harnessing the power of P2P
- Related Stories
Thanks to BitTorrrent, Net neutrality debate reignitesNovember 2, 2007
File-sharing furor for ComcastOctober 26, 2007
BBC to launch on-demand serviceApril 30, 2007
Skype founders name new video start-up JoostJanuary 15, 2007
Napster's learning curveOctober 20, 2005
(continued from previous page)
Regardless of whether their infrastructure can support P2P traffic, the floodgates are now open and are not likely to close.
This is especially true as more video comes online. Because P2P leverages "peers" in the network to host pieces of content, media companies and video distribution services don't need to spend millions of dollars building out their own server farms and high-speed infrastructure.
"P2P allows you to deliver content that otherwise would be too expensive to deliver over the Internet, like high-definition video," said Doug Pasko, who represents Verizon and is co-chair of the P4P working group. "And not to sound too Internet altruistic, but keeping the cost down using P2P also helps level the playing field a bit, so if a guy in a garage wants to produce and distribute his own movies, he can do it the same way a big studio can."
Making use of P2P
The cost-effective nature of P2P is why large media companies, such as News Corp., the BBC, and NBC Universal are using P2P to distribute their video content. And because it greatly improves the economics of distributing video, the technology also enables a slew of new companies like Joost and Vuze an opportunity to enter the market.
P2P also offers some potential cost savings for Internet service providers.
"P2P follows similar economics to building a broadcast network," said Marty Lafferty, CEO of the DCIA. "In a broadcast model, the same money is spent to deliver video if there is one viewer or 20 million viewers. But on the Internet, each stream costs the network operator money. P2P allows the file to be downloaded once and shared many times. In fact, distribution actually gets more efficient the more people who want the file."
It is this promise of using the network more efficiently that initially sparked the interest of engineers at Verizon. The company is even considering using P2P on its set-top boxes to more efficiently distribute movies on demand, Verizon's Pasko said.
Even though P2P in its current form offers some benefits to service providers, Pasko said the protocol could be refined to offer even more efficiency.
Today P2P traffic often travels along unnecessarily long routes to its destination. For example, someone downloading an episode of The Office in New York may get part of the file from a peer in Singapore even though there are several peers with the same file just down the street or across the river in New Jersey. The P4P solution adds network intelligence to the peering process, so that the P2P applications can make smarter decisions about where they get content.
"If a P2P service can understand how the network is configured to request the file at the closest peers rather than arbitrarily getting it from a peer across the country or around the globe, it could save a lot of network resources," Pasko said. "Every link that a bit passes through costs something. So if I can get the same bits from a Fios customer locally rather than from someone in Singapore or Taiwan, I don't have to use those network resources across the country and under the Pacific."
What's more, Pasko said, using peers that are closer also helps files download faster, making it a win for the video provider as well as the customers.
But to make this intelligent peering scenario work, companies using P2P to distribute content will have to work with network operators around the globe. Historically, ISPs and other network operators have been leery of sharing network information with each other--let alone third parties.
But Pasko said it only takes sharing general information about the network topology and its customers to see some benefit. And because the information shared is not detailed enough to identify individual subscribers, consumers shouldn't fear that their privacy is being violated.
Pasko said he hopes further real world tests will help convince even more carriers to support the working group. Currently, four major cable operators in the U.S.--Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, and Cablevision--have become observers of the working group. And once the group gets enough support, it will begin trying to standardize what and how information will be shared.
"The carriers we've talked to about our results have been very interested," Pasko said. "I think the perception before was that no one really wanted to talk to anyone about solving the P2P issues. But that isn't really the case."
26 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment