by September 12, 2002 0 comments

Most of today’s local office networks are based on the client-server model, wherein there’s a small group of servers providing services to a large number of clients. So, there are file servers, application servers, messaging servers, Web servers, ftp servers, and so on. They’re what you can call the law and order providers of a network, controlling what clients can or can’t access. Since they’re fewer in number compared to clients, it’s easy for network administrators to manage them. Now, imagine if there were no separate servers on a network. Every machine was a server by itself, and could freely share anything it wanted directly with any other machine on the network. That’s what the concept of P2P (peer to peer) networking is about–the ability of any machine to share its data with any other machine, without needing to take permission from any server. You’re probably getting all sorts of mixed feelings about this, both good and bad.

P2P Networks Classifieds
Three types of P2P networks are collaborative computing, messaging and affinity groups

Using P2P Applications
Napster, Kazaa, Gnutella, MSN, ICQ and Yahoo messengers are all P2P apps. Here’s a brief idea of how they work

The FastTrack Network
It uses a two-tier appraoch to search faster
Run your Own P2P Network
Set up a Java-based P2P application on a private network
LAN Party
Gaming over a P2P network can be real fun
P2P Formations
There’s no single perfect P2P architecture, but several models are floating around vying to get there
Kazaa, Morpheus, LimeWire

How network administrators can save their precious Internet bandwidth by blocking P2P apps

Though the P2P concept has been around for ages, its new avtaar has crossed the confines of a LAN to cover the entire world using the Internet. This is challenging the very basis of how networks function and, even worse, how some businesses operate. For network administrators, the concern is about losing all control over the network. For businesses, the concern is about losing business because of software piracy, and hence legal issues come into the picture.

The first well-known example of modern P2P networks is Napster, which allowed any user connected to the Internet to share his data, mostly music, with anyone else connected to the Internet across the world. While this was great for individual users, it was a serious threat to the music industry because people shared pirated music in the form of MP3 files. It also posed a problem for corporate networks, because just about every computer user used this to download MP3s, leading to choked Internet bandwidth, reduced employee productivity, etc. Music companies fought legal battles in courts, and Napster was forced to shut down. But by then the power of Napster had fuelled the birth of many other similar applications, Gnutella, Morpheus and Kazaa being the popular ones. What’s more, every new P2P application was more powerful and difficult to stop than the previous.

There are two sides to this situation. One side is that P2P networks are a parasite to corporate networks and software industry. The other is a more positive side of P2P. Just imagine if music companies used such a network to distribute their music with some sort of payment mechanism. They could create a new distribution channel with a broader reach than any other method. It could be a new business model altogether. The pages to follow talk about what P2P is, its architecture and applications.

Anil Chopra

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