Dueling Data on Volume of P2P Traffic

A new survey from on the growth of Internet traffic over peer-to-peer (P2P) networks is generating controversy. The German traffic analysis firm ipoque has issued preliminary results from a survey that show P2P applications accounting for anywhere between 50 percent and 90 percent of all Internet traffic. The final results will be detailed at MIT later this month.

The ipoque findings differ significantly from a June report from Ellacoya Networks on the same topic, which found that P2P apps accounted for 37 percent of all Internet traffic, compared to 46 percent for HTTP (web site) traffic. That survey was also controversial, as it bucked conventional wisdom that P2P sucked up more bandwidth than web traffic. Ellacoya said that growth of video-over-http service YouTube had altered the equation.

So what’s the bottom line for network operators and demand for data center services?

The key trends and implications are summarized by Eric Bangeman at ArsTechnica:

Despite the differences in how the traffic is broken out, ipoque and Ellacoya’s data both illustrate the degree to which users’ desire for video is affecting the Internet. It seems safe to assume that much of the P2P traffic reported by both firms is video. Combine that with the surge in traffic to YouTube and other video sites, as well as the official upcoming launch of Joost, and it paints a picture that some ISPs will find disturbing: demand for high-bandwidth applications like video is increasing. That’s why ISPs are so interested in deep packet inspection and other traffic-shaping tools.

Speaking of which, some critics of Comcast’s purported traffic-shaping practices allege that the company is using forged TCP Reset (RST) packets to interrupt BitTorrent connections. CNet blogger Chris Soghoian said that by “pretending to be from the host at the end of the BitTorrent connection,” ISPs enter murky legal territory. The issue is being discussed today at Slashdot. The allegations that Comcast is interfering with BitTorrent traffic first surfaced at Broadband Reports and TorrentFreak. Comcast flatly denies the reports. “We’re not blocking access to any application, and we don’t throttle any traffic,” Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas told Broadband Reports. “[Comcast] has a responsibility to manage our network to ensure our customers have the best service, and we use available technologies to do so.”

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.