You Take the High Road, I'll Take the Low Road
MIT Technologhy review says researchers have mapped the mighty Internet and found that in addition to its hierarchical structure, it has evolved peer to peer relationships so developed that they are more important than we have realized.
The researchers' results depict the Internet as consisting of a dense core of 80 or so critical nodes surrounded by an outer shell of 5,000 sparsely connected, isolated nodes that are very much dependent upon this core. Separating the core from the outer shell are approximately 15,000 peer-connected and self-sufficient nodes.
Take away the core, and an interesting thing happens: about 30 percent of the nodes from the outer shell become completely cut off. But the remaining 70 percent 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," says Carmi. It's a slower trip, but the data still gets there. Carmi believes we should take advantage of these alternate pathways to try to stop the core of the Internet from clogging up. "It can improve the efficiency of the Internet because the core would be less congested," he says.
Like any other evolving organism the Internet has evolved its own special purpose backchannels, which we now realize are potentially useful. Some researchers warn that bypassing the hierarchical architecture will also mean the network cannot manage itself.
But, Bullock warns, although there are potential benefits to improving the efficiency of the Internet using peer-to-peer networks, letting peer-to-peer networks grow in an unconstrained way could just as easily result in the creation of more congestion. For example, there would be nothing to prevent them from channeling data through the same nodes, thereby creating congestion elsewhere. Even so, there is currently a lot of interest in trying to figure out how to improve the Internet in the future; revealing its structure should help this process, says Kirkpatrick.