P2P Discovery

What kind of core do Kazaa and its supernodes have? Is it iron? Gold? Or is it more of an aluminum core because the cloud that supports the Kazaa P2P network is still malleable — the Supernodes that provide the cloud services are fluid and can change as well as go offline with little or no impact to the system.

I imagine, without going into the architecture of the system, that more than one Supernode is assigned to any particular subnet, others to act as backups, most likely pinging the primary Supernode to see if it’s still in operation. Out of operation, the backup Supernode(s) takes over and a signal is sent to the P2P nodes to get services from this IP address rather than that one. The original Supernode machine may even detect a shutdown and send a signal to the secondaries to take over.

Or perhaps the Supernode IPs are chained and the software on each P2P node checks at this IP first and if no response occurs, automatically goes to the second within the Supernode list and continues on until an active Supernode is found. This would take very little time, and would, for the most part, be transparent to the users.

Again without access to any of the code, and even any architecture documentation (which means there’s some guesswork here) the algorithm behind the Supernode selection list looks for nodes that have the bandwidth, persistent connectivity, and CPU to act as Supernodes with little impact to the computer’s original use. The member nodes of each KaZaA sub-net — call it a circle — would perform searches against the circle’s Supernode, which is, in turn, connected to a group of Supernodes from other circles so that if the information sought in the first circle can’t be found, it will most likely be found in the next Supernode and so on. This is highly scalable.

So far so good — little or no iron in the core, because no one entity, including KaZaA or the owner’s behind KaZaA, can control the existence and termination of the Supernodes. Even though KaZaA is yet another file sharing service rather than a services brokering system, the mechanics would seem to meet our definition of a P2P network. Right?


What happens when a new node wants to enter the KaZaA network? What happens if KaZaA — the corporate body — is forced offline, as it was January 31st because of legal issues? How long will the KaZaA P2P network survive?

In my estimation, a P2P network with no entry point will cease to be a viable entity within 1-2 weeks unless the P2P node owners make a determined effort to keep the network running by designating something to be an entry point. Something with a known IP address. Connectivity to the P2P circle is the primary responsibility of a P2P cloud. KaZaA’s connectivity is based on a hard-coded IP. However, small it is, this is still a kernel of iron.

We need a way for our machines to find not just one but many P2P circles of interest using approaches that have worked effectively for other software services in the past:

We need a way to have these P2P circles learn about each other whenever they accidentally bump up against each other — just as webloggers find each other when their weblogging circles bump up against each other because a member of two circles points out a weblog of interest from one circle to the other.

We need these circle to perform an indelible handshake and exchange of signatures that become part of the makeup of each circle touched so that one entire P2P circle can disappear, but still be recreated because it’s “genetic” makeup is stored in one, two, many other circles. All it would take to restart the original circle is two nodes expressing an interest.

We need a way to propagate the participation information or software or both to support the circles that can persist regardless of whether the original source of said software or information is still operating, just as software viruses have been propagated for years. Ask yourselves this — has the fact that the originator of a virus gone offline impacted on the spread of the said virus? We’ve been harmed by the technology for years, time to use the concepts for good.

We need a way to discover new services using intelligent searches that are communicated to our applications using a standard syntax and meta-language, through the means of a standard communication protocol, collected with intelligent agents, as Google and other search engines have been using for years. What needs to change is to have the agents find the first participating circle on the internet and ask for directions to points of interest from there.

A standard communication protocol, meta-language, syntax. Viral methods of software and information propagation. Circles of interest with their own DNA that can be communicated with other circles when they bump in the night, so to speak. Internet traversing agents that only have to be made slightly smarter — given the ability to ask for directions.

Web of discovery. Doesn’t the thought of all this excite you?

Iron Clouds

A true P2P cloud does not have a core of iron. By this I mean that there can be no static IP or server providing the gateway or facilitating the communication between nodes within a distributed application.

You can argue this one with me for years and you won’t convince me otherwise. I know that Groove has an iron core cloud. I know that Userland is thinking of an iron core cloud that can move about the nodes. UDDI is based on the premise of a centralized source of information about services that just happens to get striped and mirrorer. Striped — chunked off. Mirrored — distributed to different servers. And don’t focus on the the distributed in the latter, keep your eye on the server.

Server == iron

iron == control

Freenet comes closest to being the truest form of a cloud but there is an assumption that the gateway to the cloud must be known in some way, a pre-known entrance. According to the Ian Clarke’s Freenet: A Distributed Anonymous Information Storage and Retrieval System, “A new node can join the network by discovering the address of one or more existing nodes through out-of-band means, then starting to send messages”.

Can we have P2P clouds without some touch of iron? Can we have transient gateways into P2P networks without relying on some form of pre-knowledge, such as a static IP?

Ask yourselves this — I’m looking for information about C#, specifically about the CLR (Common Language Runtime) and the Common Language Interface (CLI).

Keys are: C# CLR CLI

Go to Google, enter the words, click on I’m Feeling Lucky — and say hi to me in passing.

We don’t need P2P clouds with cores of iron; what we need is new ways of looking at existing technologies.

P2P Services

The Don Box discussion about HTTP was a good read with valid points.

From a P2P, not a web services perspective, we need to guarantee certain capabilities in P2P services that we take for granted in more traditional client/server environments. This includes the following:


  • Transaction reliability — the old two-phase commit of database technology appears again, but this time in a more challenging guise.
  • Transaction auditing — a variation of the two-phase commit, except that auditing is, in some ways, more fo the business aspect of the technology.
  • Transaction security — we need to ensure that no one can snoop at the transaction contents, or otherwise violate the transaction playing field.
  • Transaction trust — not the same thing as security. Transaction trust means that we have to ensure that the P2P service we’re accessing is the correct one, the valid one, and that the service met some business trust criteria (outside of the technology realm with the latter).
  • Service or Peer discovery — still probably one of the more complicated issues about P2P. How do we find services? How do we find P2P circles? How do market our services?
  • Peer rediscovery — this is where the iron hits the cloud in all P2P applications I know of. You start a communication with another peer, but that peer goes offline. How do you take up the conversation again without the use of some centralized resource? Same could also be applied to services.
  • Bi-directional communication — This is Don’s reference to HTTP’s asymmetric nature. Peers share communication; otherwise you’re only talking about the traditional web services model.

The file transfer nature of Napster or Freenet, and the IM nature of Jabber don’t necessarily consume all of these aspects of P2P applications, so haven’t necessarily pushed the P2P bubble to the max. However, when we start talking about P2P services — a variation of web services one could say — then we know we’re going to be stretching both our technology capabilities, and our trust of the same.


Brave New World

What is going to be the future of connectivity? What is the Brave New World of the Internet going to be?

Is it going to be a system of services linked together through one centralized (but benevolent) agency? Need a service? Want to sell a service? Check into the Agency, the Agency will take care of you. Oh, by the way, you need to add this to your machine. And you need to give us this information.

And you need to understand that we know what’s best for you…and you have no choice, anyway, do you?

Or is it going to be a brave new world of content publishing and subscription?

You sitting at home passively on your machine hooked up as a dying man is hooked up to a heart machine, each beat a pulse from the great wire, delivering you all the information fit to print, at least fit enough to survive the filters.

You sit and add your own beat, with perhaps an accompaniment of a pat on the head, job well done. Why seek? Why search?

Now, just put that finger on that mouse and click those checkboxes and yes, we’ll take care of you because we know what’s best for you…and you have no choice, anyway, do you?

Put your mouth to the nipple and prepare to be fed.

A brave new world.

Connecting to the void you send tendrils out seeking others of like mind, or not, occasionally bumping into something new or unexpected in your search.

Two paths open for every path that closes, and the only locked door you find is standing alone with no walls around it. You laugh into the void as you walk past the door, continuing on your journey of discovery.

Defining P2P

In P2P, a peer both provides and consumes services. A group of peers can then provide and consume services to and from each other without dependence on any one server. With this understanding, there’s an assumption that this consumption and distribution occurs when the peer is connected.

Within some P2P enabled applications, the communication may be cached or queued when the peer is not connected. I know this the way Groove works.

Within Freenet, any one of the nodes within the network can consume or supply files. But if a peer is not connected, it’s not part of the network, it isn’t a participant and files are consumed and supplied through other participants. Either you’re a peer, or you’re not. Again, the assumption of 24-hour access is not a factor.

Some systems support a hybrid cloud whereby service requests are cached at a remote location (usually hidden from the peer), waiting for the other peer to connect. When the other peer connects, the communication is concluded. The results of the service call can then be communicated back to the originating peer, or cached itself if the originating peer is offline.

In a true P2P system, any one of the peers within the network could act as a cloud (intermediary) for other peers. Within a hybrid system, such as Groove, the system itself might provide these types of intermediary services.

As for firewall issues, most P2P tools can work from within firewalls, or be made to work within firewalls.