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Microsoft Aims Avalanche At BitTorrent

David Utter
Expert Author
Published: 2005-06-20

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British researchers for the Redmond-based software and game console maker discussed the company's work on a superfast peer to peer sharing system.

"Hi, it looks like you're downloading a pirated copy of the movie Bubba Ho-tep. Can I help?"

Ok, so the legendary Microsoft Office assistant Clippy isn't really going to walk users through the process of becoming litigation targets for the MPAA.

But developers in the UK have been working on Microsoft's version of the fast file sharing system known as BitTorrent. Those R&D people say they can make it easier to share large data files, such as movies, television programs, and software packages like the forthcoming Longhorn operating system.

The Avalanche technology will be similar in function to BitTorrent. With that system, users who download a file from a system simultaneously make that file available to others who want the same file.

The distributed method prevents massive bandwidth demands on a single server containing a desired file. Numerous cooperative clients spread that demand out over several systems.

Where Microsoft says they can improve the process is in the end-stages of a download. Those final pieces, the rare bits as Microsoft calls them, create demand problems even on a distributed system like BitTorrent if only a few clients have them and some of them become unavailable.

Avalanche's improvement begins at the server where the file is first place. Pieces of the file get encoded with an algorithm. The effect of that encoding allows each piece to know about the other pieces. Once a user collects enough encoded pieces, the file can be recreated.

Avalanche does not depend on central servers to track the download, as BitTorrent does. In beta testing, Avalanche distributed a 4GB file in a day to several thousand of its software beta testers, according to InfoWorld.

And owners of copyright material don't need to worry about illegal file sharing. Avalanche will only share content that has been signed by its publisher.




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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

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