A new study that looks at the impact of peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic on service provider networks shows file swapping forges on unabated.

CacheLogic of Cambridge, England says the practice shows no sign of slowing down despite court rulings that have shut down some popular sites, such as Suprnova, a BitTorrent tracking service that offered links to pilfered television and movie content.

CacheLogic's global monitoring network shows 60 per cent of all Internet traffic is the result of peer-to-peer file-sharing platforms, with eDonkey taking over the top spot from BitTorrent.

"The Whack-A-Mole game continues," says Andrew Parker, CacheLogic's CTO. "The authorities go after one [peer-to-peer] system and another one pops up."

Copyright’s King Canute

At the end of 2004, BitTorrent accounted for 30 per cent of all Internet traffic. But after the Motion Picture Association of America's moves to shut down BitTorrent tracking sites, centralized servers for locating distributed content, swappers began moving to other less-publicized services.

Today, eDonkey, a system that uses no centralized servers or tracking sites, consumes the most bandwidth of any application on the Internet, particularly overseas, according to Parker. In the US, Gnutella has seen resurgence in popularity among swappers.

Of the files being swapped on the four major file-sharing systems (eDonkey, BitTorrent, FastTrack and Gnutella) 62 per cent is video and 11 per cent is audio, with the rest being miscellaneous file types, according to the study.

Traffic control

The problem for ISPs is the traffic is symmetric, meaning the same amount of traffic going downstream (where the pipe is bigger) is coming back up, choking the smaller upstream broadband pipes. And traffic is constant all hours of the day, unlike email and Web surfing, which tails off in the overnight hours.

In addition to releasing Internet traffic details, CacheLogic is announcing it is looking to expand its monitoring network by offering free equipment to select service providers. CacheLogic and the ISP would share the traffic analysis data.

Peer-to-peer file sharing does have some legitimate uses, as it pushes the distribution load away from a central origin server and out to the very edge: each individual user/viewer.

The BBC has launched IMP, a download service that relies on peer-to-peer technology to deliver television programming to subscribers. Each program could be multi-gigabyte, which would be nearly impossible to serve to all BBC subscribers from a central location, Parker says.