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As p2p Drops Off, Caching Beats Throttling.
Monday, 01 December 2008 03:49

oversi_p2p_forecastMuch of the "congestion" problem at companies like Comcast can be eliminated by emerging technology, led by DOCSIS 3.0. In addition, the new generation of caching servers are far more effective at optimizing networks. Caches store content close by and inside networks, shortening the path each packet takes and thereby reducing effective traffic demand. Eitan Efron of Oversi tells me their newest gear can also improve things inside the network, for example

The engineers at major networks have long understood the savings possible with caching, but many have been fearful of lawsuits from Hollywood. The law seems clear on its face that caching is not prevented by copyright rules, but no one wants to be a test case. They'd be tied up in court for years. Verizon's support of p4p testing may eliminate that issue soon.

Caching server companies like Oversi are hopeful of a ten fold increase in demand, as costs of caching continue dropping. DPI throttling is becoming far less effective as p2p becomes less of web traffic. The first large broadband network, Milo Medin's @Home cable network, heavily used caching, as have most carriers outside North America. For years, the private conversations at the carriers were about the savings possible with caching, but publicly they said little until Verizon quietly led the p4p network efficiency effort.

The incoming Obama team believes in making the Internet more efficient, and is likely to sweep aside any protectionist limitations on caching. Kevin Werbach, on the FCC transition team, wrote five years ago:

Service providers could deploy caches or “superpeers” within their networks to make
video P2P file transfers more efficient, while offering their users software packages to
take advantage of them. By keeping video P2P transfers more local, such a strategy
would also reduce capacity demands in the service providers’ networks, thus reducing
costs.

(Werbach since the 1990's has been arguing that increased use of the Internet should be encouraged, not throttled, and has supported policies that make that practical. Caching dramatically reduces the effective cost of bandwidth, minimizing capacity concerns.)

Oversi is seeing a distinct drop in the percentage of web traffic that is Bittorent and similar exchanges. They provide caching servers around the globe, so have a good picture of worldwide net traffic. It's being replaced by an increase in Internet video streaming, "HTTP video" and possibly commercial p2p, such as the BBC iPlayer and Joost. Based on the data they have, they project a near 50% fall in non-commercial p2p. This corresponds to our previous reports from AT&T that p2p is no longer the driver for Internet traffic.  The chart above includes a projection of an increase in commercial p2p such as the BBC iPlayer, but despite announcements that is not showing up in the data so far.