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Solving the p2p dilemma
P2p is swamping some broadband networks, says Sandvine Inc, a new Canadian company
By Jon Newton,
(more articles from this author)
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KaZaA, Morpheus and the like ignore logical ISP network topologies, resulting in ad hoc connects with P2P clients on other networks and a tendency to push data traffic 'off net,' which in turn drives up Net transit costs and undermines profits, says Sandvine.

How serious is the problem? "Recent studies suggest that file sharing activity accounts for up to 60% of the traffic on any given service provider network," it states in its industry White Paper, The impact of file sharing on service provider networks.

"P2P has ... emerged as the dominant component of bandwidth used by residential Internet subscribers. The evolution from Napster to KaZaA, Gnutella, Morpheus and others has dramatically increased the amount of data transferred across service provider networks.

"Many home PCs are now being used as P2P data servers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It is always 'prime time' to be downloading somewhere in the world."

There are three basic styles of P2P file sharing, Sandvine's paper continues:

* One-to-One, typically a transfer of files from PC to PC

* One-to-Many (as used by Napster) which allows a single host to communicate and share files with multiple nodes. Examples include mail servers connected to multiple mail clients and HTTP servers communicating with browsers.

* Many-to-Many, as per Gnutella protocol clients.

That's hardly news. Nor is the statement that the enormous popularity of file sharing and the breadth of competing protocols makes blocking P2P traffic a practical impossibility.

"Service providers have begun to experiment with tiered pricing based on monthly bandwidth consumption, or capping the amount of bandwidth available to P2P applications, but these approaches can easily be positioned as punitive by Internet lobby groups and competitors, generating dissatisfaction amongst subscribers and potentially aggravating customer churn," says the company, founded only last September.

But Sandvine - based in Waterloo, Ontario, home to one of Canada's premier high-tech universities - thinks its Peer-To-Peer Policy Management hardware and software bundle will cut bandwidth costs by "logically rearranging" p2p network topology.

"This patent-pending approach analyzes P2P searches and ensures that each is redirected to hosts on a lower-cost path before attempting to reach hosts on a higher-cost path," Sandvine promises.

With full support for both the FastTrack and Gnutella protocols, Sandvine's P2PPM approach, "helps service providers take control of file sharing traffic and corral it within the proprietary network," says Dave Caputo, founder, president and CEO.

Sandvine grew out of another Waterloo tech startup called PixStream, the company's Mark De Wolf told, adding, "Two of PixStream's founders, Marc Morin and Brad Siim, joined forces with other members of the PS executive team to found Sandvine ... after selling PixStream to Cisco for approximately (CDN) $500 million."

PixStream developed hardware and software to distribute and manage digital video across broadband networks. Mark says the original idea was to help service providers offer video services to businesses and consumers. "As it turned out, that fit into Cisco's broad strategic plans to accelerate the delivery of broadcast-quality video over broadband networks," he adds.

(NOTE:This next bit is for Canadians only. If you're from anywhere else, please don't read it ; )

There's an increasing tendency for Canadian start-ups to head south as soon as they've developed anything significant. Is that going to happen to Sandvine?

NO WAY! - says Mark: "Sandvine will definitely remain Canadian and true to it's Waterloo roots. There's a mix of lifestyle benefits and access to expertise here (thanks to U of W) that would be hard to replicate anywhere else!"

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