Verizon gets into P2P technology

Collaboration with Pando, Yale researchers aims to reduce P2P traffic burden for ISPs

Verizon announced last week that it has successfully tested a new peer-to-peer, file-transfer system that the company says could eliminate many of the headaches that P2P systems have traditionally caused ISPs.

The new P2P system employs what Verizon calls "intelligent routing" that actively guides the selection of file sources and network pathways. Verizon says this is a vast improvement over most P2P software, which the company says isn't very efficient.

Typically, P2P technology such as BitTorrent distributes large data files by breaking them up into small pieces and sending them through multiple sources. After all the data is received, the file is then reassembled as a whole.

While this method of file sharing is much faster and more efficient than relying upon one centralized server, it can also cause traffic management problems for ISPs because P2P protocols are mainly designed to download large chunks of data from sources wherever they can be found, and without particular regard to network efficiency. Verizon says that the experimental new P2P software creates an orderly system that directs file sharing between multiple users and puts far less strain on network capacity.

The new experimental software, which Verizon helped test in conjunction with researchers at Yale University and P2P software developer Pando Networks, allows the network to select sources that will optimize the delivery route of large files, thus making P2P transfers faster and cheaper, says Verizon senior technologist Douglas Pasko.

"It makes no sense for a customer to arbitrarily download a file from Singapore, consuming bandwidth on high-cost, high-traffic routes like Pacific undersea cables, when the file is stored right down the street and can be accessed more quickly and cheaply," he says.

Pasko says that the software relies upon network data provided by Verizon in order to scope out efficient routes. Once the experimental P2P software is armed with information to help it optimize content delivery, Pasko says that it results in "over 60 per cent improvement in performance for our users, as well as a 50 per cent reduction in network costs."

The P2P field test was conducted through the P4P Working Group, a US industry organization sponsored by the Distributed Computing Industry Association, whose mission is to bring ISPs, P2P software distributors and technology researchers together to create a set of practices designed to optimize P2P content distribution. In addition to Verizon and Pando Networks, the P4P group includes such major players as AT&T, BitTorrent and Cisco.

Pando Networks CTO Laird Popkin says that Verizon's embrace of the new P2P system shows how carriers can benefit from collaborating with P2P vendors rather than actively trying to thwart them.

"The collaboration of various network and sharing companies through this effort indicates great promise for this distribution model," he says. "The more networkers who deploy it, the more the benefit accrues to both the networks and the customers."

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