The Shape Of The Online Universe

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The increased use of peer-to-peer communications could improve the overall capacity of the Internet and make it run much more smoothly.  That’s the conclusion of a novel study mapping the structure of the Internet.

MIT Internet TN  This image shows the hierarchical structure of the Internet, based on the connections between individual nodes (such as service providers).  Three distinct regions are apparent: an inner core of highly connected nodes, an outer periphery of isolated networks, and a mantle-like mass of peer-connected nodes – separating the core from the outer shell are approximately 15,000 peer-connected and self-sufficient nodes.  The bigger the node, the more connections it has.  Those nodes that are closest to the center are connected to more well-connected nodes than are those on the periphery.  Take away the core, and an interesting thing happens: about 30% of the nodes from the outer shell become completely cut off.  But the remaining 70% can continue communicating because the middle region has enough peer-connected nodes to bypass the core.  With the core connected, any node is able to communicate with any other node within about four links.  If the core is removed, it takes about seven or eight links – it’s a slower trip, but the data still gets there.

MIT Internet 2 TN  At the center of the Internet are about 80 core nodes through which most traffic flows.  Remove the core, and 70% of the other nodes are still able to function through peer-to-peer connections.

MIT Internet 3 TN  At the very edge of the Internet are 5,000 or so isolated nodes that are the most dependent upon the core and become cut off if the core is removed or shut down.  Yet those nodes within this periphery are able to stay connected because of their peer-to-peer connections.

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