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Summary:

If the Internet is a highway, then the companies responsible for maintaining the roads are increasingly at odds with the ones producing a lot of the traffic. Comcast throttling BitTorrent traffic as a way to protect network integrity (or so it says) is one example. Another […]

If the Internet is a highway, then the companies responsible for maintaining the roads are increasingly at odds with the ones producing a lot of the traffic. Comcast throttling BitTorrent traffic as a way to protect network integrity (or so it says) is one example. Another can be found in the arguments of a British ISP that’s seeking to get the BBC to pay for network upgrades, claiming the broadcaster’s iPlayer is hogging too much bandwidth.

I’m not going to get into the insanity happening in the UK right now, but what is worth talking about is how networks can handle the increasing amount of traffic going through their pipes. The request for funding to build more robust networks made by Simon Gunter, chief of strategy at ISP Tiscali, is akin to asking car companies to pay a tax for building more roads. It’s one way to address the issue, but there are other options, among them better traffic management, which would decrease the distance cars need to travel.

Now that I’ve thoroughly beaten that metaphor into the ground, let’s talk network management. It’s an evil phrase, but necessary in a world in which backhaul is limited and fiber to the home is still a luxury. Recall that the FCC had no problem with Comcast engaging in network management practices, but rather that Comcast “managed” a specific application without disclosing that fact to consumers. And the application attacked was competing with Comcast’s own cable offerings.

Many of these media files are delivered via peer-to-peer networks. They’ve long been the most efficient way to get large amounts of data across a network, and now they’re working hard to be even more efficient. Nine months ago, Verizon and Pando Networks stepped up to create the Peer 4 Peer working group, which is trying to create a standardized protocol through which P2P firms and ISPs could work together. The idea was that sharing an ISP’s network topology would help P2P companies route traffic in ways that are advantageous to both the ISP and the end user. Results included a 235 percent increase in delivery speeds in the U.S. and keeping more traffic inside an ISP’s own network.

The other way to reduce traffic involves each P2P company making tweaks to their software. In October of 2007, BitTorrent launched a function called BitTorrent DNA that recognizes when a network point is too congested and shunts the traffic flow through different areas. Jay Monahan, general counsel for Vuze, says his P2P company started paying more attention to congestion within the last few months as well.

At some point new roads will have to be built. But in the meantime, there are ways to prevent network congestion that don’t involve kicking certain cars off the road.

  1. One way is P2P caching (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P2P_caching).

    It is used a lot today by international ISPs, who face the double whammy of high consumer demand for video and other bandwidth-hogging content from the US and higher bandwidth costs (particularly of international transit links).

    P2P caching lets ISPs optimize bandwidth and content delivery while delivering a better experience to all subscribers — P2P users and non-P2P users alike. So, it’s one important way to “improve the roads” and ease congestion without rebuilding the whole infrastructure.

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  2. One way is P2P caching (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P2P_caching). It is used a lot by international ISPs, who face the double whammy of high consumer demand for multimedia content from the US and high bandwidth costs (particularly for international transit links).

    P2P caching lets ISPs optimize bandwidth while delivering a better experience to all subscribers – P2P users and non-P2P users alike. So, it’s one way to relieve network congestion and “improve the roads” without rebuilding the whole infrastructure or resorting to more-restrictive traffic management techniques. When combined with business policies, caching can provide a much more intelligent way to manage media delivery – one that doesn’t tick so many people off.

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  3. “Network Management [] it’s an evil phrase”

    That’s a bit harsh on good old SNMP, amongst others… should we not be talking about traffic management or traffic profiling? All networks need ‘managing’ after all…

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  4. [...] Croll, Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 11:45 AM PT Comments (0) In the debate around Internet regulation and traffic, it’s important to understand the things that drive how much bandwidth we need. Without [...]

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  5. Years ago GridNetworks recognized that “network friendliness” was a key criteria to market acceptance of any commercial P2P technology, and today our traffic profile is very different than conventional P2P delivery systems. Our objective is always an overall reduction of “byte miles”. By adding the right intelligence to the end nodes, we have shown it is possible to optimize traffic to the point that broadband video can, indeed, become a legitimate new mass medium that someday challenges conventional television. But GridNetwork’s streaming technology differs from the bittorrent-based file swapping systems generating lots of traffic right now, and that’s where those of us in the P4P community (we are core members alongside Verizon, Pando & others), expect this work to help out. With dynamic optimization innovations like ours already at market, and easily-adopted optimization schemes like P4P coming to market very soon, ISPs like Tiscali actually stand to benefit greatly from the use of P2P over the coming years. Copyright issues may forever remain a spirited topic within the bittorrent community, but I suspect that network managers minding the bandwidth will soon acknowledge P2P as the preferred technique for propagation of bulk data like video.

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  6. Internet more roads … view http://runningthebeauty.com.ua for details

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  7. [...] “…what is worth talking about is how networks can handle the increasing amount of traffic going through their pipes.”http://gigaom.com/2008/04/10/does-the-internet-need-more-roads-or-better-traffic-signals/” rel… [...]

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  8. With the sudden boom in the Internet industry, as given rise to many problems as well. Different technologies are getting upgraded to come up with “network friendliness” and also, are working hard on managing the traffic. We not only need more roads but also, better traffic signals will play key role. Many of the media are delivering via peer-to-peer networks. They’ve long been the most efficient way to get large amounts of data across a network, and now they’re working hard to be even more efficient. By adding the right node,will be able to optimize the traffic efficiency.

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  9. [...] management” of a different kind and internet traffic are discussed by Stacy Higginbotham at GigaOm. The network management she’s talking about has to do with throttling or degrading the [...]

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