What is Peer-to-Peer?

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Peer-to-peer networking uses personal devices active on a network to share data files with one another. The goal is to save bandwidth by reducing the number of requests traveling to and from a primary content server.

Originating with content and file sharing at the birth of the Internet, today Peer-to-peer networking is one of three core technologies used to optimize the delivery of video. As we embed more and more video into our standard business operations, companies rely on enterprise content delivery networks (eCDN) —combinations of multicasting, video caching and peer-to-peer networking—to protect precious bandwidth on their networks.

When to Use a Peer-to-Peer eCDN?

As you explore which eCDN is right for your enterprise, start by learning how each technology works. Then evaluate it based on your use cases and the configuration of your network.

Here are a few reasons why a peer-to-peer eCDN might be right for your company:

  • Live streaming events are a priority
  • Your network is not multicast-enabled
  • You need to optimize video at locations with limited or no server infrastructure
  • You don’t want to manage and deploy client software
  • Most of the devices on your network are wired (not using Wi-Fi)


How Peer-to-Peer Works

When used with streaming video, peer-to-peer technology creates a hierarchy of nodes to retrieve and redistribute video segments from an origin video source. A peer-to-peer network looks very much like an inverted tree, with root nodes retrieving video segments from the upstream origin server, and downstream nodes retrieving video segments from the upstream nodes, which in turn serve the segments to nodes downstream from them.

A peer-to-peer network controller (server application) forms peer groups of end-user devices as they come online. The groups are based on geographic proximity, making the peers suitable to share content quickly and easily. The controller can be hosted as a cloud-based service or on-premises.

When a user requests content, the peer-to-peer controller checks the peer group to determine if the content has been previously stored. If a peer is found, the content will be provided without connecting to the original video source.

Strengths and Weaknesses

One of the strongest features of peer-to-peer networking is that it needs virtually no infrastructure. The controller can be deployed in the cloud as easily as anywhere else, since video traffic never passes through it. For the same reason, peer-to-peer networks are fast to deploy. As each viewer installs the peer-to-peer client on their device, they can join or start a peer-to-peer network with little other work required. When using WebRTC-based peer-to-peer, no client deployment is necessary and any device with a modern browser can participate in the peer network.

The biggest weakness with peer-to-peer is its greatest strength. It relies on viewers—specifically their active viewing devices—as the forwarding system. This weakness is exhibited in a number of ways:

  • Potential for sub-optimal forwarding architecture
  • Inefficient use of WAN bandwidth
  • Topology instability
  • Non-deterministic network impact
  • High latency variation between nodes

Caution should be taken when using peer-to-peer on networks with Wi-Fi connected viewing devices. peer-to-peer can actually consume more bandwidth than using no eCDN at all because of the half duplex nature of Wi-Fi and the way traffic is routed through the wireless controller.

peer-to-peer is at its best when all viewers are accessing the same video at the same time. Therefore, peer-to-peer is best used for live events and scheduled rebroadcasts. It is not as strong with video on demand since user access is less orchestrated, reducing the opportunity for the benefits of peer-to-peer to be realized.

Vbrick Peer-to-Peer

Vbrick Peer-to-Peer is a peer-to-peer networking eCDN that helps reduce the bandwidth needed to deliver live video on corporate networks. Our peer-to-peer eCDN uses WebRTC to establish a network of end-user devices for storing and redistributing video. WebRTC is a widely adopted communication standard already integrated into all modern browsers, devices and operating systems. Therefore, Vbrick Peer-to-Peer can be used without a plugin or other client software installed on the end-user device.

The limited infrastructure requirements for Vbrick Peer-to-Peer make it an ideal eCDN for locations with small concentrations of viewers and limited compute resources. Event statistics and video analytics let you monitor your network and webcast performance in real-time for a holistic, data-driven view of your live events. Vbrick Peer-to-Peer is the perfect companion to Vbrick Multicast and/or Vbrick Edge Caching to get the best bandwidth optimization at every location on your network.

  • No client software or plugins
  • Hosted in the cloud or on-premises
  • Supports any device with a browser
  • Scales automatically with demand
  • Simple, one-time setup
  • Encrypted, GDPR and DRM compliant
  • Event statistics and video analytics
  • Supports virtually any streaming video source
  • Simultaneous support for multiple streaming platforms

You can learn more by downloading the Vbrick Peer-to-Peer solution brief.

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