The adage that “no P2P development is safe in the United States except for BitTorrent” is taking on new relevance considering LimeWire’s current state of affairs with the RIAA. BearShare, LimeWire, eDonkey2000, and iMesh have all borne the brunt of the entertainment industry’s offensive against commercial P2P developers – the notable exception being BitTorrent.
BitTorrent (the company) has avoided a similar fate to the above mentioned P2P firms because of its perceived ability to function as a legitimate protocol. By utilizing its advanced network architecture, large files that would otherwise place a significant strain on a centralized server are instead distributed throughout the community. Instead of an individual downloading a 4 gigabyte file from a single source, the file is obtained from swarms of other BitTorrent users; while also helping to distribute the downloaded portions of the file.
The allure of a low cost distribution medium has found BitTorrent, Inc. at least one powerful ally, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America.) In an announcement made in November of 2005, BitTorrent and the MPAA released a joint statement where the P2P developer would actively work to remove infringing material from their search engine, while exploring possible avenues for movie distribution. Although neither has come to an astounding fruition, the gesture appears to have been enough to keep BitTorrent in the clear.
Free to develop the BitTorrent protocol and associated projects without hindrance, BitTorrent, Inc. has actively pursued commercial ventures with CacheLogic. CacheLogic is an ISP solution firm which seeks to lessen the bandwidth burden placed on networks by caching P2P traffic. Caching servers, which are hosted by the ISP, maintains the most popular and most queried traffic. Instead of the BitTorrent client utilizing the ISP's external bandwidth to obtain the required file(s), traffic is contained between the cache server and the end user. In other words, the traffic is maintained within the ISPs internal network, which is considerably cheaper than handling external traffic.
So now CacheLogic is traveling around establishing these caching servers on ISP networks throughout the world. In theory, the most bandwidth consuming traffic is cached within these servers, alleviating the network of high intensity utilization. This concept has received a relatively warm reception in the P2P community; seen as a preferred alternative to bandwidth throttling.
Sounds great, so how do I simultaneously use this incredible technology and help my local ISP?
Some ISPs have been implementing older generation cache servers that recognize BitTorrent and other P2P traffic. Traffic is then routed to the cache server instead of traveling outside the network. But this is a hit-and-miss approach, and has prompted an upgrade. BitTorrent recently published mainline client version 4.20 (AKA the “Allegro” release) which contains the Cache Discovery Protocol (CDP). Since caching’s usefulness is limited if the application can’t locate or communicate with cache servers (and vice-versa), the integration of CDP greatly enhances and facilitates communication between the BitTorrent client and the cache servers. ISPs that utilize CDP can more easily detect and route BitTorrent traffic to their cache server.
Wow, that’s awesome. But there’s more than just one cache server out there, right? How can we make this better?
In a joint announcement made today by CacheLogic and BitTorrent, a global network of cache servers has been organized under the name “VelociX”. VelociX is the network protocol that governs the actions of a theoretical global community of cache servers. With potentially thousands of networked cache servers at the disposal of the end user, network costs are cut and download speeds are increased significantly.
For example, let’s take a look at a CDP enabled client on the prowl for a specific 4.5 gig file. The CDP looks for the closest geographical area for a VelociX swarm, in addition to conventional peers. The VelociX swarm provides the bulk of the file sought after, greatly reducing the reliance on peers. This equates to greatly accelerated download speeds, and since this takes place largely on dedicated servers and not peers, the ISPs costs are reduced.
“The VelociX Accelerated Media Delivery Platform comprises a global distributed network with significant delivery capacity located at strategic points across the Internet. The platform, and its interaction with P2P clients operating on the network, is dynamically controlled using CacheLogic’s Cache Discovery Protocol (CDP) that enables accelerated media delivery and optimizes distribution of legal content. CDP has already been integrated into the newest clients of BitTorrent™ (San Francisco) and RawFlow™ (London) with other software vendors also utilizing CDP to fully integrate their products with the VelociX Accelerated Media Delivery Platform.”
I can’t wait to start downloading!!111
Just one second, cowboy. Unless you plan on downloading authorized content, the network probably isn’t for you. In the CacheLogic press release, VelociX will allow “legal content (infringing content is not accelerated) to be inexpensively delivered in minutes instead of hours.” Content that is authorized to function on the VelociX network must be manually published via specific hash codes to a central data base.
So this all this CDP hoopla I’ve been reading about was nothing more than a clever ruse to pimp authorized content?
Not really. CDP is an open source protocol, which means anyone with enough programming knowledge can implement the protocol into his or her P2P client. And since its open source, he or she can create a unique cache server farm independent of CacheLogic. But don’t expect 10 megabit/sec download speeds from VelociX anytime soon. Also, CDP has the potential to work well with ISPs’ cache servers that operate independently of the VelociX network.
Until someone develops a similar, independent VelociX-type network, this development only benefits the demographic of the BitTorrent community that's inclined to purchase content. Considering the size of this demographic, it’s questionable if such a tremendous bandwidth saving initiative is even necessary.