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Deep Dive: Peer-to-Peer Content Distribution in the Enterprise

By Doug Kennedy, Chief Growth Officer, Adaptiva

When many people hear peer-to-peer (P2P), they almost instinctively think Napster, which debuted more than 20 years ago. It introduced revolutionary technology that allowed people to share music. But amid copyright infringement issues, crippling lawsuits, and the company's initial collapse, many predicted the death of P2P.

We've come a long way since then and the once gritty, cutting-edge consumer peer-to-peer technology has matured, yet it is none the less disruptive in a new frontier. Modern and secure, it is now transforming traditional methods of content distribution in the enterprise.

The Content Delivery Conundrum

In the enterprise today, an assortment of applications, programs and operating systems run on thousands of endpoints often based throughout the world. Any time the corporate IT team wants or needs to install new software, upgrade the version running on an employee's machine or device, or issue a patch, the team has to make sure that new or upgraded content makes it to all the necessary endpoints. This can result in a whole slew of problems.

First, it is incredibly time-consuming to ensure deployment and proper configuration of content on every single endpoint that needs it. Content in this sense includes anything from Office 365 or Adobe to operating systems, to line of business applications and more. This takes a massive toll on network performance, which can negatively impact business operations. To avoid the strain, content delivery is often delayed until nights or weekends and is done on a set schedule. The problem then becomes two-fold. IT employees are responsible for overseeing a massive undertaking outside of business hours, which is bad for morale, and critical updates are delayed to accommodate these schedules, which compromises endpoint security at a time when the endpoint should be protected at all costs.

Role of Peer-to-Peer

Peer-to-peer models of content distribution change the process dramatically. After downloading to a single endpoint in the network, peer-to-peer technology is able to route content to the right endpoints in record time, utilizing unused computing and storage capacity on devices rather than local server infrastructure to store and share content. This minimizes traffic over the WAN and exponentially accelerates distribution.

The best peer-to-peer solutions on the market today are designed specifically for enterprise level content distribution. They can read traffic, monitor, and adjust accordingly, shifting storage and speeding up or slowing down delivery so that there is never a backup and network performance is not affected. Content is automatically pushed to thousands of endpoints, regardless of location, simultaneously in real time, and IT teams are able to monitor distribution by location or content type. If something needs to be addressed while distribution is underway, IT staff can pause, resume, or reprioritize distribution flows. It is a model in efficiency.

Unlike the P2P of old, modern enterprise-grade peer-to-peer content distribution is also highly secure when rigorously designed, tested, and implemented. In fact, it is used today by many of the world's largest banks, government agencies, and healthcare providers that are required to take extra precautions to secure sensitive data.

Going into greater detail, quality enterprise peer-to-peer distribution engines leverage role-based security and access controls, which are built in and integrated with Active Directory. Administrators can grant privileges and permissions in order to maintain control from the onset. While content is transferred, the peer-to-peer system generates a SHA256 hash for every file as well as for the complete transfer. This way, the integrity of the content can be validated by figuring the SHA256 secure hash of a received file. If a mismatch occurs, the file is removed. If it was somehow compromised by malware or a malicious actor, the client couldn't put "bad" content into the system as any change would be detected and rejected by the receiving client.

Model Benefits

Peer-to-peer content distribution offers enterprises tremendous benefits. In addition to optimizing distribution to reduce bandwidth requirements and preserve network performance, peer-to-peer solutions get rid of the expense associated with the server infrastructure previously required. Conservative estimates predict this saves between $5,000 and $25,000 per server in addition to eliminating the significant ongoing maintenance costs. In sum, for large enterprises this can represent millions of dollars in savings each year.

Additionally, content is immediately available at each location for new installs or updates. Once it is downloaded to the location, it is always accessible to any device that requires it and has the proper permissions. Looking at this from a global perspective means saving hours to weeks waiting for new or upgraded software, which benefits overall network security as well.

Furthermore, if an enterprise is using the latest intelligent peer-to-peer solutions, they get rid of the problem of a single point of failure because content is accessible from multiple sources locally. This is much different than what they would experience in a traditional client-server model. Prior to peer-to-peer distribution, loss of just one distribution server could bring the distribution to an abrupt stop. That can't happen with peer-to-peer.

The kinks from the earliest days of peer-to-peer technology are long gone. Today, industry-leading organizations are discovering that P2P has the capacity to transform the enterprise in truly incredible ways. P2P now represents the future of efficient, secure content distribution.

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About the Author

Doug Kennedy 

Doug Kennedy, chief growth officer at Adaptiva, draws on his three decades of enterprise technology experience to lead Adaptiva's business development, strategic relationships, and channel programs. Throughout his career, Kennedy has led a wide variety of programs and initiatives for some of the world's biggest enterprise technology companies. His work has spanned partnerships, channel programs, sales, marketing, customer life cycle management, and support services. Prior to Adaptiva, Kennedy served in executive roles with Oracle Corporation, NetSuite and Microsoft. For more information, please visit https://adaptiva.com/, and follow the company on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Published Friday, March 13, 2020 7:37 AM by David Marshall
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