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P-Cube: Don't Fear the P2P

IP engineering firm P-Cube Monday unveiled a new SmartStart-P2P program it says will help companies keep from freaking out any time someone mentions the phrase peer-to-peer.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company says its new venture is a regimented diet of products and services that let broadband Internet service providers (ISP) understand the impact of broadband apps, such as peer-to-peer (P2P), on their networks. The program also includes software tools to cut down on the amount of related problems such as congestion, poor QoS, and high latency.

"By working closely with our service provider customers, we have gained unique insights into how the immensely popular P2P applications are affecting the network operations and business models of many service providers around the world," P-Cube vice president Vikash Varma.

The company said its SmartStart program follows a structured process of consulting and network inspection using P-Cube's Engage platform. The report includes an assessment of network behavior and performance information including statistical charts of current traffic, interpretation of the data, and recommended actions to be taken by the provider to address any uncovered issues. P-Cube said it could also submit a customized architecture and ROI model showing how much aggravation time its Engage platform solves.

Overall, there has been a huge increase in the number of P2P file sharing and file transfer Web sites. Internet metrics firm Websense said in a 12 month period between 2001 and 2002, the number of peer-to-peer file sharing and file transfer Web sites spiked to more than 535 percent and the total number of Web pages dedicated to P2P is close to 38,000.

Most tech companies manage some type of P2P network including FTP download sites for upgrades and patches. In the case of Sun Microsystems , the company is adopting a generalized P2P system with its JXTA program.

Yet besides performance issues, the workplace has become the latest battleground in the recording industry's fight against music piracy and a headache for ISPs.

The RIAA claims an estimated 2.6 billion illegal downloads of copyrighted works occur each month, some at workplaces in the U.S. "Because of high-speed connections and huge bandwidth, corporate computer networks are tempting and fertile ground for employees who illegally trade music using an unauthorized peer-to-peer network," the trade group said recently.

The problem has been complicated with the landmark RIAA vs. Verizon ruling that forced the ISP to reveal the names of illegal file swappers.

P-Cube said it shies away from the legal ramifications and focuses more on the rampant increase of P2P traffic on provider networks.

"We developed the SmartStart Program professional services offering to provide the increasing number of service providers facing the P2P phenomena a reliable and straightforward method with which they can quantify the problem on their own networks and have the information and tools required to address it," Varma said.