A few years ago, Pablo Rodriguez and Christos Gkantsidis applied Network Coding to Peer-to-Peer file swarming, calling their system 'Avalanche'. I was lucky enough to be involved in their project. Over time, Cambridge Incubation at Microsoft Research Cambridge built a content distribution system around the Avalanche research results. Today that work culminates in a public customer technology preview (CTP) of the resulting system, Microsoft Secure Content Distribution (MSCD).
Before I go any further, let me stress: this is a four-week CTP. Microsoft has no announced plans to incorporate MSCD into any of its products, or to offer it as a separate product.
MSCD allows authorized content publishers to distribute their content to a large audience via file swarming. The publisher can choose to use MSCD to augment their existing server bandwidth, or use it to enable them to reach a much larger audience than they could have otherwise with a relatively small server investment. MSCD is NOT a file searching or file sharing technology: it's intended for a small number of publishers to distribute content to a large number of customers.
Security, preservation of publisher rights, and providing a good customer experience are core goals of MSCD.
The goal of the CTP is to gain real-world experience with MSCD. You can test and simulate to your heart's content, but with internet protocols, you never realy know how well it works until you deploy it.
As you may have heard, Visual Studio 2008 Beta-2 is expected out soon. In addition to the existing distribution mechanisms for VS Beta-2, the Visual Studio team is allowing Cambridge Incubation to make it available via MSCD for the next four weeks. Visual Studio 2008 has a lot of great new features which should make it extremely popular. My personal hope is that some of the more adventurous customers will choose to download it via MSCD.
We've been developing and testing MSCD for quite a while, but this is our first public CTP, and so our first opportunity to see how it works 'in the wild.' There may be hiccups in the experience of downloading the VS Beta via MSCD. If so, please remember these are issues with MSCD, NOT with Visual Studio. Anyone who chooses to try downloading via MSCD can also use the server-based download mechanism at any time.
If you're interested in more information about MSCD, you can read this article to start. If you'd like to read more about some of Visual Studio 2008's great features, you can check out Soma's blog or ScottGu's blog.