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Peer-to-Peer by Andy Oram

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Gnutella’s traffic problems

One place where the analogy drawn between Gnutella and cellular telephony and Ethernet holds true down to its last bits is how Gnutella suffers in cases of high traffic. We know this because the public Gnutella network at the time of this writing has a traffic problem that is systemic, rather than the standard transient attack. Cellular telephones show a weakness when the cell is too busy with active calls. Sometimes there is crosstalk; at other times calls are scratchy and low quality. Ethernet similarly reaches a point of saturation when there is too much traffic on the network, and, instead of coping gracefully, performance just degrades in a downward spiral. Gnutella is similar in almost every way.

In terms of solutions, the bottom line is that when too many conversations take place in one cell or segment the only way to stop the madness is to break up the cell.

On the Gnutella network, things started out pretty peacefully. First a few hundred users, then a few thousand, then a few hundred thousand. No big deal. The network just soldiered along. The real problem came along when host caches came into wide use.

Host caches

In the early days of Gnutella, the way you found your way onto the network was by word of mouth. You got onto IRC and asked for a host address to connect to. Or you checked one of the handful of web pages which maintained lists of hosts to connect to. You entered the hosts into your Gnutella software one by one until one worked. The ...

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