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Startup's Streamsight Tracks P2P Traffic

CacheLogic is testing its new traffic-analysis appliance to help ISPs handle rising peer-to-peer traffic on their networks. Through the process, the company uncovered some interesting data about the worldwide P2P traffic.

Streamsight 510 inspects packets in real-time and reports back to network operators how much of that traffic is P2P, including data that masquerades as Web or e-mail applications.

"ISPs learn what combination of applications its customers are using, at what time of day and which ones use the most bandwidth," CacheLogic CTO Andrew Parker told internetnews.com. "With that, they can put together offerings."

So instead of a one-size-fits all broadband contract, an ISP may sell an upgraded package with additional bandwidth at night when home users are downloading music, videos and software.

The appliance, which costs $30,000 and can be deployed in minutes, has been tested in large ISPs across the globe for the last six months. It will be generally available in the fall and in full-production by year's end.

Those trials have yielded some surprising information about P2P use, a hot-button issue among the recording/film industries, ISPs, P2P network operators, consumers and Congress.

CacheLogic found that BitTorrent has eclipsed KaZaA as the most popular P2P protocol worldwide, consuming more network resources than any other network applications. Other major players include Gnutella, FastTrack and eDonkey, the latter of which is particularly strong in Europe because of multiple language versions of its service.

Through Streamsight analysis, CacheLogic found that the total population logged onto the major P2P networks at any one point in time is approximately 8 million users, sharing more than 10 petabytes of data. CacheLogic said that statistic refutes the myth that the P2P problem is caused by a few heavy users.

The vast majority of this traffic is large files such as movies, rather than MP3s, the focus of the record industry in its fight against copyright infringement. In many circumstances, the typical file size is greater than 100Mb per file transfer.

And it's not just media files. An increasing number of companies are using P2P to distribute free software projects, notably Fedora, a community version of Red Hat, which uses BitTorrent. The BBC is also piloting P2P protocols to distribute content. From their point-of-view, using P2P models rather than having users directly download from their sites shifts bandwidth costs onto the ISPs.

Legitimate collaboration applications such as Groove Networks also use P2P architecture to help home and mobile workers stay connected with their teams back in the office.

Jonathan Hirshon, a spokesman for the company, said the appliance does not collect any information that can be used to identify end-users. He said CacheLogic faces competition from networking heavyweights like Cisco and Juniper , which have been working on their own packet-inspection tools.

UK-based CacheLogic is privately held and is venture-backed. It has only about two dozen employees. Asked about increasing its number of employees and the need to raise additional capital, CacheLogic's Parker said, "A lot will depend on the success of this effort."



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