Researchers at Microsoft’s Cambridge, England, labs are developing a file-sharing technology that they say could make it easier to distribute big files such as films, television programs and software applications to end-users over the Internet.
Code-named Avalanche, the technology is similar to existing peer-to-peer (P-to-P) file swapping systems such as BitTorrent’s, in the sense that large files can be divided into many smaller pieces to ease their distribution. End users request the file parts from other users’ hard drives and reassemble them to create the original file.
Such systems can scale well to serve millions of users, and reduce the bandwidth and computing costs of sending content directly to users from central servers. Some have also irritated publishers who complain the services are used to share copyright works illegally.
The system differs from BitTorrent’s eponymous software in a few ways, said Peter Key, joint head of the systems and networking group at Microsoft’s research labs in Cambridge . It does not depend on central servers, called “trackers,” to orchestrate the download. The Avalanche client on each PC shares the files automatically among users; they do not look at other users’ hard drives to find what they want. And the system works well in smaller networks, such as a corporate intranet, he said.
Perhaps more importantly for content creators, Microsoft claims its system prevents users from redistributing copyright material, because Avalanche will only forward files that have been signed by the publisher.