Comparison of Multicast Versus Peer to Peer Multimedia Streaming

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Streaming video or audio content to a large audience on the Internet requires substantial amounts of network resources. The most common method for content transmission on the Internet uses the central server / client architecture, which is very inefficient and resource intensive. Internet Broadcasting requires the use of efficient transmission methods to provide a cost effective means for content distribution.

There have been hardware and software technologies developed, which can be used to obtain more efficient content transmission methods. Multicast was a significant step in achieving the goal of delivering video and audio content to large audiences without requiring substantial amounts of bandwidth. Peer-to-Peer content streaming was built upon the success of Multicast content distribution technology.

Multicast was created as a hardware based solution to distribute data without the need for centralized servers, which is ideal for video and audio streaming. It uses special reserved network addresses for data distribution and routing. A Multicast network consists of specially configured routers that act as data relay points. Broadcasters must connect to these specially configured routers to distribute their content. Users connected to these routers can select which data channel or Prostastream multimedia stream to receive. The Real Time Transport Protocol is used to minimize errors for audio or video Internet broadcasts.

Each stream is identified using a special announcement protocol known as the Session Directory Protocol (SDP). This identification mechanism describes the content of the audio or video Internet broadcasts that use embedded information tags. Clients scan the information tags contained in the streams and select which one they want to receive.

Each audio or video stream requires a reserved portion of the dedicated Multicast network bandwidth. Individual broadcasts cannot exceed the overall reserved network bandwidth without degrading all of the broadcasts. To enable this type of content transmission on a global scale, every Internet service provider would need to enable external Multicast networking and coordinate interconnectivity. End users would have to enable this specialized networking on their computers and on their Local Area Networks to receive the audio or video broadcasts.

Peer-to-Peer multimedia streaming requires the installation of special software on each computer that wants to receive the audio or video streams. Each connected computer acts as a data relay which eliminates the need for special network router configurations, that are required for Multicast content streaming. A single virtual network is created for each audio or video broadcast, which reduces the overall bandwidth needed for content distribution. This type of Internet broadcasting allows computers to receive data from multiple sources, which lowers data error and latency within the virtual network. These Internet broadcasts are identified and sorted by embedded information tags. Clients can scan these embedded information tags and choose which stream they want to receive.

There are various open and closed source Peer-to-Peer software applications that can be used to stream both audio and video content. These software applications can be used to broadcast content encoded in various formats and multimedia codecs.

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