There’s been serious buzz about The Venice Project , a peer-to-peer IP television start-up from Kazaa and Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis. Out-law.com noted last week that The Venice Project “could break users’ monthly internet bandwith limits in hours,” downloading 320 megabytes per hour and uploading 105 megabytes per hour on computers running the software. Since it’s a P2P application, it will continue to run in the background and use system resources unless the user completely closes the program, which could mean that The Venice Project will eat up more than 2 gigs of bandwidth a day.
“Full-screen video does use a lot of bandwidth, and The Venice Project is no exception to this,” Libby Miller wrote on the company’s blog, addressing the Out-Law.com report. “Most people have high-speed connections without restrictions and can more than handle this bandwidth demand, but some ISPs (especially in the UK) cap bandwidth access, so we suggest that you take a look at your provider’s bandwidth policy before using The Venice Project for any lengthy period of time.”
Consider the network traffic implications if The Venice Project becomes popular – which is not a far-fetched notion with the early buzz and a pedigree that traces its lineage to Skype and Kazaa. The issue prompted a lengthy discussion on the North American Networks Operators’ Group (NANOG) mailing list. “Two GB/day per user would indeed require tossing everyone’s CURRENT baseline network usage metrics out the window, if it were to be achieved instantaneously,” noted Andrew Odlyzko, director of the Digital Technology Center at the University of Minnesota. “The key question is, how quickly and widely will this application spread?”
Odlyzko, a former Bell Labs researcher who has been tracking Internet traffic since the infancy of the Web, added some perspective on current resource usage rates:
Today, download rates per broadband subscriber range (among the few industrialized countries for which I have data or at least decent estimates) from about 60 MB in Australia to 1 GB in Hong Kong. So 2 GB/day is not that far out of range for Hong Kong (or South Korea) even today. And in a few years (which is what you always have to allow for, even Napster and Skype did not take over the world in the proverbial “Internet time” of 8 months or less), other places might catch up.
The Venice Project’s Colm MacCarthaigh has participated in several online discussions about the service’s likely traffic impact, including the one on NANOG. “The Venice Project will affect network operators and we’re working on a range of different things which may help out there,” he said. “We’ve designed our traffic to be easily categorisable and we know how the real internet works.” MacCarthaigh noted that the project has centralized servers in Luxembourg and plans to deploy additional sites at network congestion points. “In the next 6 months or so, we hope to turn up at IX’s (interconnection centers) and arrange private peerings.”
This will be one to watch. At the very least, the Venice Project figures to boost the use of 10Gig Ethernet ports at peering and interconnection points. Ars Technica predicts that “there’s a real chance that the Venice Project will be at the center of net-neutrality debates in the United States in the coming months.” For more discussion, see Nicholas Carr, Paul Stamatiou, and VIPeers.