Designing a Super-Peer Network
Computer Science Department, Stanford University
A super-peer is a node in a peer-to-peer network that operates both as a server to a set of clients, and as an equal in
a network of super-peers. Super-peer networks strike a balance between the inherent efficiency of centralized search,
and the autonomy, load balancing and robustness to attacks provided by distributed search. Furthermore, they take
advantage of the heterogeneity of capabilities (e.g., bandwidth, processing power) across peers, which recent studies
have shown to be enormous. Hence, new and old P2P systems like KaZaA and Gnutella are adopting super-peers in
Despite their growing popularity, the behavior of super-peer networks is not well understood. For example, what
are the potential drawbacks of super-peer networks? How can super-peers be made more reliable? How many clients
should a super-peer take on to maximize efficiency? In this paper we examine super-peer networks in detail, gaining
an understanding of their fundamental characteristics and performance tradeoffs. We also present practical guidelines
and a general procedure for the design of an efficient super-peer network.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) systems have recently become a popular medium through which to share huge amounts of data.
Because P2P systems distribute the main costs of sharing data – disk space for storing files and bandwidth for trans-
ferring them – across the peers in the network, they have been able to scale without the need for powerful, expensive
servers. In addition to the ability to pool together and harness large amounts of resources, the strengths of existing
P2P systems (e.g., [6, 7, 17, 11]) include self-organization, load-balancing, adaptation, and fault tolerance. Because of
these qualities, much research has been focused on understanding the issues surrounding these systems and improving
their performance (e.g., [5, 12, 21]).