File sharing shaves 95% off cost of hosting video

Peer-to-peer technology could shave 95% off the cost of distributing video on the net, researchers have discovered.

File sharing shaves 95% off cost of hosting video

Cheng Huang and Jin Li from Microsoft Research together with Keith Ross of Polytechnic University in New York analysed nine months of video downloads from Microsoft’s MSN service – at around 60 million per month that provided data for more than 500 million downloads.

The researchers took that data and then simulated sharing it among users using p2p software. They found that if each user who wanted a video downloaded it via p2p from another user, Microsoft’s bandwidth costs would be reduced by more than 95%.

At the same time they calculated that users would only have to allocate a small part of their upload capacity for videos to be available just as quickly over p2p as they are direct from MSN. All Microsoft would have to do would be to provide the video in the first place and make up any shortfall in availability.

Plug-in sharing

The researchers envisage using a browser plug-in to share videos that are traditionally viewed through the web browser. Microsoft would not be the only beneficiary; Google, for example, is thought to be paying around $2 million each month to secure enough bandwidth for YouTube. Apple’s iTunes Movie and TV store are also bandwidth hungry.

The savings would not necessarily be passed on to ISPs. The software could be configured so that users only share video with users who are connected to the same service provider. US ISP Comcast already does this with BitTorrent shares, as keeping the traffic confined to its own network means it does not have to pay for bandwidth elsewhere.

This would, however, result in fewer savings for the video provider. With fewer peers for each shared video, shortfalls would be more frequent. Nonetheless costs would still be halved.

“The current model is not really sustainable,” Ross told New Scientist, “Microsoft is certainly interested in the possibility of using peer-to-peer technologies, where users distribute video amongst themselves.”

The researchers’ findings are published as Can Internet Video-on-Demand be Profitable?.

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