Peer-to-peer downloading

The latest hotfix for Symantec’s IT Management Suite (ITMS 8.0 HF5) has also brought new features.
One of these new features is particularly exciting, so we’ll take a closer look at it:

Peer-to-peer downloading in software distribution.

This innovation is more powerful than its name suggests. Read here how you and your IT can benefit from it.

The new peer-to-peer downloading (available since Altiris 8.0 Hotfix 5) allows software distribution and patch distribution to take less time and, most importantly, generate less network traffic. Simply put, with this feature, clients simply pass installation files to each other (analogous to other p2p networks).

In practice, this means that the clients do not have to fetch the software packages to be installed from a package server, but can fetch these packages from another client in the same subnet.
So if a new software is available on the package server, it is fetched there by only one client and is then distributed “peer-to-peer” from this client to the other clients. As already mentioned, this has two serious advantages:

1. the network traffic is significantly reduced and
2. the download takes much less time with peer-to-peer.

Here you can get detailed information about the configuration of peer-to-peer downloading.

Symantec has collected a comparison between peer-to-peer and multicasting.

The advantages of p2p over multicasting become clear:

  • Only minimal load on the network
  • No special hardware or preparations required (switch/router configuration)
  • When downloading, p2p can handle “subnet switching” and also “resume within subnet” is guaranteed
  • Handling LAN connection problems during download is easier
  • Peer-to-peer engine enables more efficient Office 365 click-to-run updates.

Technical details on peer download optimization in ITMS:

Source: Symantec

How do the clients actually find each other?

  • By means of the data from the local ARP cache
  • Via the UDP broadcast
  • Via network scan

Who can become a peer?

  • Different computers in the network can become peers (Altiris Agent mandatory)
  • It is also possible to decide who is allowed to become a peer based on physical proximity
  • Individual devices can also be put on the “bench” where they wait until/if they are needed as a peer.

What happens to peers who do not respond?

  • If a peer is invisible or unresponsive for an extended period of time, it will be removed from the peer list via the agent

Sounds exciting? It is!

Pssssst, a little goodie at the end: Hotfix #6, which is expected to be available in mid-February 2017, even promises improvements to the peer-to-peer download feature already!