22TB of patches in 4 hours using BitTorrent

Get out your list, because you can add another application to the tally of legitimate uses of BitTorrent.

Apparently, software updates are getting so big these days that simply downloading them from a server is becoming prohibitively time consuming, especially when the same updates need to be applied to many different machines. A Dutch university has some 6,500 desktop PCs in ten locations, which on occasion need to download 3.5GB worth of different types of updates. That’s a handsome 22.2TB in total. In a traditional client-server world, that’s some modest lifting.

In fact, INHOLLAND University’s IT department used to have almost two dozen servers distributed over the university’s locations to serve up these downloads. The school was able to retire 20 of them after adopting a new way to distribute updates: BitTorrent.

The peer-to-peer protocol allows PCs to download most of the updates from each other—the remaining servers are mostly needed to send out the first few copies and then coordinate the up- and downloading. One of the advantages of the BitTorrent protocol is that it uses bandwidth where it can find it: faster links are automatically used more.

Using this technology, updating all 6,500 PCs can be done in less than four hours. Previously, this took four days. Four days down to four hours for the same needs! (link)


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