Peer-to-peer traffic over the enterprise network is a constantly moving target, particularly for universities where users tend to have time on their hands for evading control tools. Ever-evolving P2P methods, combined with efforts by the Recording Industry Association of America to crack down on illegal downloads, create a healthy climate for makers of traffic management tools.
This week, Allot Communications Inc. is unveiling the latest in its line of Net Enforcer traffic management products, which provide central control for up to 100,000 end users. The AC-1000 Version 5.1 addresses P2P protocol and application signature changes and includes Layer 7 protocol monitoring to identify the port hopping that P2P applications use to disguise file sharing. Allot increased the throughput of the NetEnforcer to 1G bps.
Carnegie Mellon University, which installed the NetEnforcer earlier this year, recently tested the latest version for its 11,000 users on campus. The biggest problem for the university with P2P traffic is that users leave protocols open, allowing outside users to connect remotely to the network, said Kevin Miller, network systems developer at Carnegie Mellon, in Pittsburgh. "Basically, people on campus were being servers for the rest of the world," Miller said, adding that users often minimize P2P applications, thinking that they have closed them. "Many people were unaware of the outbound traffic. In many cases, it was not obvious that the system was still running."
P2P-related traffic accounted for more than half the outgoing traffic at one point last year, Miller said. Setting a cap on P2P traffic helped free some bandwidth, and Miller used additional software to impose a quota system on individual computers most responsible for the problem, he said.
Allots NetEnforcer line monitors traffic by user, application, protocol and bandwidth usage. The latest version lets IT identify P2P traffic even when it is disguised as Web traffic, said PG Narayanan, CEO for Allot Americas, a subsidiary of Allot Communication, in Minneapolis. "Now it doesnt matter which port they go to; we follow the handshake between the server and the client," Narayanan said.