January 24, 2008 4:00 AM PST

Harnessing the power of P2P

Peer-to-peer technology has gotten a bad rap for years, but a group of Internet service providers led by Verizon Communications is working to harness the technology to reduce network traffic and speed up video downloads on the Web.

Since the days of file-sharing networks like Napster, which allowed people to exchange songs on their computer hard drives with others on the Internet, peer-to-peer technology has been demonized in the press. The entertainment industry has pegged it as a tool for piracy. And recently, ISPs have blamed it for clogging their networks.

But the technology, which was originally developed for the research community to share huge files over the Internet, is increasingly being used by legitimate video distribution services like the BBC's iPlayer, voice over Internet Protocol service Skype, and Internet video start-up Joost. And as more high-bandwidth applications like video make their way onto the Web, peer-to-peer, or P2P as it's commonly called, will be used even more. This means that Internet service providers and content owners will have to find ways to work with the powerful P2P technology--whether they want to or not--if they hope to survive.

"Peer-to-peer has entered the mainstream," said Cynthia Brumfield, president of the market consultancy Emerging Media Dynamics, which is publishing a report on the P2P market next week. "The technology is being used by companies large and small for legitimate commercial purposes and with good reason. It's a very efficient distribution technology. But it has to be managed, and that's what needs to be figured out. "

"Peer-to-peer has entered the mainstream...It's a very efficient distribution technology. But it has to be managed, and that's what needs to be figured out."
--Cynthia Brumfield, Emerging Media Dynamics

In an effort to come up with a solution, Verizon Communications and P2P technology provider Pando Networks joined forces last year with researchers at Yale University to figure out a way to put the file-sharing technology to better use. The companies and the university formed the P4P Working Group (P4PWG) within the Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA) . So far the group has signed up nine other members to the cause. These companies include other big telephone companies, such as AT&T and Telefonica, as well as big technology companies like Cisco Systems and Verisign.

Using basic subscriber information from ISPs, researchers claim to have developed a solution that can reduce a provider's P2P bandwidth consumption on their networks by about 60 percent, while also speeding up P2P downloads by nearly a third. This month, Verizon and Pando will start testing the new system on a real network in the U.S. AT&T and Spanish ISP Telefonica also plan to conduct tests.

Assessing the problem
Broadband providers, particularly cable operators, have complained that P2P traffic is eating up too much bandwidth on their networks. They say that the use of P2P, which assembles large data files like video by requesting bits of content from "peers" in the network, is crippling their networks.

And as a result, they have started to take action. Last year Comcast, the largest cable operator in the U.S., was accused of blocking the P2P application BitTorrent on its network. The service provider denied it was blocking traffic and said it had slowed down the BitTorrent packets in an effort to better manage its network.

Subscribers, who didn't like this brute-force solution, became furious. Complaints were filed with the Federal Communications Commission, and the company's practices are currently being investigated by the agency.

Other service providers have also taken action. AT&T says that it is testing content filtering technology to identify copyrighted material to reduce the amount of P2P traffic traversing its network. And Time Warner Cable, the second largest cable operator in the U.S., said it is experimenting with a new business model where heavy bandwidth usage will be metered to reduce P2P usage.

"P2P traffic is a big problem for our network" said Alex Dudley, a spokesman for Time Warner. "But more importantly it can be a nuisance for our customers, because it slows down their service. If a few customers are using an inordinate amount of bandwidth they should pay for it."

The reason that P2P is such a problem for some service providers is that they never designed their networks to allow for massive transfer of data both on the downlink, as well as, the uplink. P2P applications work by leveraging files that are distributed throughout a network.

So instead of broadband subscribers downloading a movie from a central server farm, a P2P application requests pieces of the movie from "peers" on the network who have already downloaded the same movie. This distributed model is a much more efficient and cost effective way for distributing large files than the traditional client-server model, but it requires that users have high-speed uplinks as well as high-speed downlinks.

Broadband networks today, and cable broadband networks in particular, are designed to give much more capacity on the downlink than on the uplink. For example, Time Warner Cable sells a broadband service that allows downloads at up to 10 Mbps but uploads at only 512 kbps. By contrast, Verizon, which has been deploying fiber directly to customers' homes, offers a service with downloads at 15 mbps and uploads at 2 Mbps.

CONTINUED: Cost effectiveness…
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26 comments

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Traffic shaping
Wat are the implications of the ever increasing trend of ISPs implementing traffic shaping (anti P2P) to reduce the load on their backhaul? Do they specifically allow these sites but not piratebay etc?
Posted by gwilliamp (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
reseed plz
It seems the guys at Yale forgot the fatal flaw of P2P, particularly bittorrent - the usual end user simply gets the file then immediately disconnects from the swarm.
Posted by QMT (831 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yup
Also, the ISP's just need to deliver more bandwidth. Build whatever they have to build, hook up whatever they have to hook up. They're just trying to charge as much as possible for what's already there.

Downloading video's doesn't take up too much bandwidth because it isn't for anyone to decide what too much bandwidth is. If customers want more just give it to them. If they don't wanna pay turn it off.

But these videos are just a warning that the ISP's need to do something. Do they think video's will take up less bandwidth next year? I don't think so. High-def anyone? They should have been building new infrastructure years ago. Bandwidth has always sucked, and it always fell just short of the requirements of new technologies. It's finally time to get a move on.
Posted by Imalittleteapot (835 comments )
Link Flag
Other Peer-2-Peer
I have a Playstation 3 game (NASCAR '08) that requires Peer-2-Peer.
Posted by jtea84 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A Riot, with Looting
Sure, P2P is a great technology and may someday be capable of great things. But until people get the idea that efficient distribution is not the same as free, we should refer to P2P by its real-world version --- a riot, with looting. Don't forget the tear gas.
Posted by contentcreator--2008 (747 comments )
Reply Link Flag
P2P copyright infringement.
You are right lets forbid guns they kill people. Sarcasm
P2P is not the same as copyright infringement. It is only a tool.
Posted by afaet (9 comments )
Link Flag
what trash
ContentCreator posted this nonsense:

"But until people get the idea that efficient distribution is not
the same as free, we should refer to P2P by its real-world
version --- a riot, with looting."

I guess the MAPP/RIAA have done a great job of selling stupid
people the idea that P2P = "stealing".

Problem 1: How can anything be stolen if it's still right where it
was before you came along? In other words, if I steal your car
you won't have it anymore, so logically if I steal music it
shouldn't be there anymore either. This isn't the case. Copyright
infringement, yes. Theft, no.

Problem 2: This still makes the faulty assumption that the only
point behind P2P is to get music or movies for free. It totally
ignores the real point behind P2P, which is to move large files
efficiently. Case in point, I updated my Ubuntu machine the
other night from 0704 to 0710. Guess how it got that update
file.

I could continue, but what's the point? The MPAA/RIAA mafia has
more money to brainwash stupid people than I have to educate
them. Besides, stupid people are ... well, stupid!
Posted by Dalkorian (3000 comments )
Link Flag
Pay for bandwidth...
How Time Warner dares to say. ??If a few customers are using an inordinate amount of bandwidth they should pay for it." They already bill you for the bandwidth, in the past they simply increased the bandwidth because it was the easiest way to fight the competition and very few people used what was available. Now that more people really use what they offer they want to increase the price and their profit.
Posted by afaet (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
I agree. It isn't for Time Warner to decide what an "inordinate amount of bandwidth" is. That's a subjective decision. They should only decide how much bandwidth they are willing to sell.

Supply and demand dictates that if customers want more. They should try to offer more. The oil companies don't say well everyone is using too much oil so we're going to stop them from driving. They just make more gas and up the price. They smile the whole time waiting for that money to roll in.

ISPs should do the same. They should just say, well if people want more then we'll give em more. That's a what a business is suppose to do.

If they can't give their customers more. Well that's what competition is for. If they can?t handle it then move out of the way and let someone else handle it. Every time an ISP offers more bandwidth for around the same price I switch. Make them compete for me I say. I?m about to switch again.

Do some people use too much compared to others? Well yeah sure, but we have the same situation for oil. Nobody can tell me that I'm not paying a premium on gasoline for my compact car because everybody driving their gas sucking SUV?s is driving up the price for everyone. Is that fair? No it isn?t, but for right now that is how the economy works.

Unless they're planning on changing the basic economic principles of supply and demand they should just shut their holes.
Posted by Imalittleteapot (835 comments )
Link Flag
You hit the nail on the head
The real problem that Time Warner has is that more people are actually using their service to the fullest capacity that they can.... personally, I download about 10-500GB's a month (yes, it is that variable, but 10 is about the least I ever do) and I don't think that I am really 'using a lot' considering that 3 other people in the same trailer park where I live have no problems downloading stuff when I am downloading things.
Posted by Leria (585 comments )
Link Flag
P2P
Talk about peer-to-peer, it seems the P4P Working Group (P4PWG) is just that, P2P! Let's hope they arrive at a unified standard which makes efficient use of current and future bandwidth.
Posted by Bill_I (231 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The future comes.
P2P is the key to more than most people think.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.digg.com/software/The_Death_of_the_Digg_Effect" target="_newWindow">http://www.digg.com/software/The_Death_of_the_Digg_Effect</a>

That's right. torrents must supplant even our beloved http. Best be getting used to it now.
Posted by ethana2 (348 comments )
Reply Link Flag
P2P: the imaginary villian
There are many perspective ways to look at P2P. Here is one: P2P is like carpooling in California. Sure, you can go out and buy your own car and join the further congested highways. However, if you choose to find someone who will let you ride with them, you will utilize 1 car to take multiple people to multiple destinations. That is efficiency.
Car companies could get angry that people are carpooling and not buying more cars from them to handle their travel needs, but there are always other factors involved: gas, maintenance, and availability.
Gas companies could get angry that people are carpooling as well and not buying individual cars to get their own ration of gas, but then again there are so many cars on the road that the impact of not having more people use gas is relatively negligible because 1 car is now travelling more highways, using more gas.
Less people would carpool if: 1) cars were cheaper, 2) gas were cheaper, 3) maintenance of cars was less expensive, 4) maintenance of roads was better, and 5) there were more roads that travelled to where people needed to go. (There?s always more reasons, but I will sum it up there).
The viewpoint of P2P from the ?big boys? is: If you can?t control it (P2P), make it (P2P) look like the bad guy. A car is a ?neutral? object. Give a car to a thief and it?s used for evil. Give a car to a person feeding the poor and it?s used for good. The car is not evil or good, the intents of the user are what determine what is right or wrong.
What honestly seems to be the problem is creating a structure in which all parties involve make lucrative amounts of money from this ?neutral? process called P2P. If you would take the time, money, and creative thought improve the areas that need improving: 1) increase bandwidth on both ends (create more highway), 2) make it reasonable and affordable to have the increased bandwidth (make the price fair for the increase in bandwidth? DON?T BE GREEDY. People will pay for good diversity of content if you make it affordable [http://iTunes, Netflix, Blockbuster, etc., etc.|http://iTunes, Netflix, Blockbuster, etc., etc.]), and 3) maintain the quality you start (self-explanatory). There is a lot more things that can be done, but this is a start.
Posted by Qwelrift (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't forget Collanos!
I feel it would have been only fair to add the p2p free team workspace provider Collanos which has done an amazing job of mastering peer to peer to make a very robust professional tool for active team players seeking unified communications and team workspace solution. Now they even have VoIP integrated!
I've been using for a while now and it is a great example of P2P for small businesses and free!
www.collanos.com
Posted by heimangil (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's why bittorrent has data chunks!
Sure, a lot of people disconnect from the swarm as soon as they've grabbed the file, just as many stay connected until their app decides to stop seeding (150% return by default on most apps), and fewer still continue to seed for much greater times.
However, the way the protocol works is that as chunks are downloaded, they are then made available for others to leech. (In the case of a 700MB movie, normally about 1400 or 2800 chunks make up the 700M file 256 or 512 kB/chunk). This means that while I've only grabbed 50% of the file I remain connected to the swarm, since I want to download the entire file before I disconnect. At this point of my download, I'm sharing potentially 50% of the chunks that I've already downloaded. with others that don't have those pieces of the complete file.

As such, I don't actually think that they've overlooked anything, especially since, as the file grows in size (assuming the maximum downlink bandwidth is never reached), the time to download the whole file also goes up, leading to more chunks becoming available since people are connected for longer. This then means that download speed increases, since there are more peers out there with chunks of the file I still don't have, which ends up leading to a steady balance between the speeding up/slowing down of transfers. This essentially makes the 'hit-and-run' torrent leeching effect negligible.
Posted by Scott.Walker (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think today good alternative for p2p is &lt;a href="http://www.rapidshare.com"&gt;http://www.rapidshare.com&lt;/a&gt;, you can search files hosted on rapidshare using google or one of this rapidshare search engines:

&lt;a href="http://www.filestube.com"&gt;http://www.filestube.com&lt;/a&gt;
&lt;a href="http://www.rapidor.com"&gt;http://www.rapidor.com&lt;/a&gt;
&lt;a href="http://www.rapidshareabc.com"&gt;http://www.rapidshareabc.com&lt;/a&gt;
&lt;a href="http://www.rapidsharefast.com"&gt;http://www.rapidsharefast.com&lt;/a&gt;


Good luck
Posted by arkonis (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sorry, somethink wrong with previous comment.

I think today good alternative for p2p is http://www.rapidshare.com, you can search files hosted on rapidshare using google or one of this rapidshare search engines:

http://www.filestube.com
http://www.rapidor.com
http://www.rapidshareabc.com
http://www.rapidsharefast.com


Good luck
Posted by arkonis (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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