Saturday, March 15, 2008

P4P Aims to Speed Peer-to-Peer File Transfers, Reduce Traffic

I'm guessing I'm not the only one who's never heard of P4P. That's because it's still being developed. The Distributed Computing Industry Association and its "P4P Working Group" is working on a new peer-to-peer protocol, called Proactive network Provider Participation for P2P or P4P. It's described as a "carrier-grade peer-to-peer file transfer system."

What might be surprising to some is that not only are companies such as LimeWire, BitTorrent, and Skype in the list of member companies, but so are ... AT&T and Verizon.

The New York Times wrote a story this week about alarm about the amount of data flowing through the Internet. While the story focused on video such as YouTube, it's also true that P2P traffic - much as ISPs may hate to admit it - makes up a significant percentage of network traffic.

The P4P protocol aims to reduce traffic by using network topology data to select peers intelligently, instead of at random, thus increasing routing efficiency. It's obvious: the more routers or hops traffic has to take, the less efficient

The research paper (.PDF), entitled "P4P: Explicit Communications for Cooperative Control Between P2P and Network Providers" was presented Friday at the inaugural DCIA P2P Market Conference in New York City.

The P4P technology was shown to enhance download rates by 205 percent over unmanaged P2P downloads, and to decrease the number of hops needed in ISP internal data delivery from 5.5 hops to 0.89 hops.

And the network topology data? It came from Verizon.

Don't get any ideas; Verizon isn't blessing P2P transfers - not illegal ones anyway. But they and other ISPs might be getting the point: that P2P in and of itself is not bad.

In fact, the P4P Working Group's mission statement (.PDF) says this:
To work jointly and cooperatively with leading Internet service providers (ISPs), peer-to-peer (P2P) software distributors, and technology researchers to ascertain appropriate and voluntary best practices for the use of “P4P*” mechanisms to accelerate distribution of content and optimize utilization of ISP network resources in order to provide the best possible performance to end-user customers.
Best possible performance for end-users? If it comes to fruition, I'll be impressed.

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