Why Apple won't add peer-peer to iCloud

The sister post to this speculates that Apple could add peer-peer protocols/functionality to its iCloud service, and the benefits that would flow.

I'm firmly of the opinion that Apple won't go there, not soon, not in-a-while, not ever.

They have too firmly entrenched attitudes about constructing and maintaining "full-control" over the euphemistically named, "User Experience".

Apple don't do "collaboration", sharing their technology or allowing the mere User to tinker with its Gorgeous Stuff. It'd no longer be "their Design" and they anathema to Apple.

Apple are into "control", which in itself is not a bad thing, but severely limits their software and system design decisions and implementations.

This isn't some simple "we know best" thing, but much deeper, intimately tied to their focus on High Concept Design and a finely crafted "User Experience". Which also means controlled experience.

Apple could make huge inroads into the PC market by licensing OS/X - something it could've done anytime in the last 10 years. Now that "classic" computers are under 25% of its business, Apple could let go of its stranglehold on its computer hardware and light the fires of innovation: "let a thousand roses bloom".  But they cannot and won't.

This translates to iCloud in two ways:
  • they haven't thought of the idea themselves, and
  • they probably couldn't model the response times of torrent-like service and would baulk at any service which is in the least unpredictable, perhaps sometimes not-quite-perfect.
Apple need to control its "User Experience", which means they can't let other players on-board and can't adopt "radical" or "unproven" solutions. (ie. "not invented here").

So they will build and run some very large datacenters to run iCloud.

The trouble with this approach is they are leaving the field of Innovation open to their competitors.
We know Microsoft won't embrace it, but Google and Android will and do.

Even Great Design can be copied and tweaked, sometimes even improved.That the British lost it home-grown motorcycle and motor car industries, know for radical and innovative design, to the Japanese and their "continuous improvement/refinement cycle" demonstrates this thesis.

In 10 years, will the "iPhone 15" be a patch on Android and the gazillion services/applications it runs?
I suspect not. The most amazing and usable devices are unlikely to come from the standalone corporations.

It could be Google and Android, it could be something completely new.

It just won't be Apple at the front, again.
Think how they blew their advantage of the Apple II. They've got form and the same fixed, rigid mindset is still rampant. That's good for Bold New Steps, poor for continuous stepwise refinement.

Apple iCloud and peer-peer (Torrents)

Will Apple add a torrent like ability to its iCloud offering??

iCloud is a remote filesystem with a lot of metadata and does 4 things:
  • provides "second copy of my precious data" (for files I've generated)
  • allows synchronisation of those files across the multiple devices/platforms a user connects. This is the aspect Apple 'sells': email, contact and calendar sync and restore/recover.
  • mediates the enforcement of copyright and content distribution
  • does Internet-Scale data de-duplication.
    • By data volume, the Internet is a 'Viewing Platform'.
    • 1 upload == zillions downloads [write once, download ~infinite]

Apple could create an Internet-Scale "Content Delivery Network" with iCloud if ran a peer-peer network, something like the hugely successful bit-torrent protocol/service.

Because you've got authorised content and validated entities/logins in a vendor controlled environment, there isn't a direct copyright or leakage problem, just the ever-present and non-removable "analogue hole".
There is scope for scanning never-before-seen files to see if they are recodings, subsets or 'analogue rerecordings' of know files.
What action then? Automatically remove the file, "Bill the User" or send a Summons?

'Backups' of already known files take the time to transfer and compare the checksum/identifier. That's a incredible compression ratio/speed-up. Those checksum/identifiers also are the natural keys for both the 'torrent' and backing-store key.

Storing the per-machine file/directory structure is another layer and doesn't yield to the same de-duplication/compression techniques.
If I were implementing the local filesystem, I'd do two things:
  • calculate and store checksums on-the-fly and store in the metadata.
  • make sure part of the metadata was as whole-file checksum or UUID-type identifier.
Possibly also calculate and store large-chunk (8-64Mb) checksums.

This enables two services usually only seen at Enterprise scale:
  • Document-Management-System like controls, searches, functionality.
  • user collaboration: tagging, comments, hilighting, edits/recuts + mashups, annotation, linking, etc.

As bit-torrent shows, using distributed {storage, net-bandwidth, CPU} scales, amplifies 'Server Effectiveness' and gives apparent 100% uptime/availability to services.
It's really cheap and easy for the content provider, though causes more traffic on the ISP network.

BTW, this isn't limited to Desktops and mobile devices.
It scales to IP-TV and on-demand content services.
Your Apple-TV box effectively has infinite & perfect storage...
Internode has announced 'fetchTv' - so these services are on the radar for ISP's.

It also has significant consequences for Ozzie customers who pay per Gb.
You really don't want your iPad on a 1Gb wireless 3G plan acting as a torrent server. A nasty $2000 bill surprise!

There are serious performance issues with local congestion (POP, ISP, backhaul, main-site) inter-network links  and dealing with ADSL bandwidth characteristics.

The NBN is going to be a Layer 2 network, (2-level VLANs or 802.11 "Q in Q").
The presumption is ISP's will offer PPPoE to begin with, as for the current ADSL services.

PPoE is not well suited to distributed data/torrents:
  •  your source device puts packets onto your LAN,
  •  your firewall/router fields those packets and pushes them to your ADSL modem which encapsulates packets into PPPoE, then puts these new packets onto the wire
  • the bytes go down your line to the DSLAM
  • are routed down the 'backhaul' link to the ISP's nearest site
  • into the 'Access Concentrator' to become a public IP addr
  • then routed towards the destination public IP address, which could be on the same Concentrator, the same POP, the same ISP, a shared 'Interconnect', or an upstream provider
  • into the destination Access Concentrator
  • down the backhaul, DSLAM, ADSL model, firewall/router and eventually appear on the destination LAN to the receving device.

Which gives you so many single-point-of-failure/congestion/saturation that it isn't funny...

If the other person is across the hall or across the road, this incurs a massive and needless overhead, not to mention delays and multiple local resource contention.

The wikipedia PPPoE article discusses problems and current solutions

So, if iCloud becomes a torrent-like service, will it overload the NBN??