Twitter distributes software 75 times faster using BitTorrent

December 30, 2011 · Posted in innovation ·  

BitTornadoMy business associate developed the BitTornado software Twitter is using to solve their server update problem. It’s the same type of problem Apple had when I worked there in 1992. The solution approach similar.

A single distribution server is a bottleneck both for efficiency and reliability. A single server slows down as more clients are accessing it. If the single server fails the entire process stops.

Predictive Innovation defines 15 Alternatives for any problem. The 15 Alternatives are arranged into two dimensions of 3 scales and 5 directions. The 3 scales are Single, Multiple and Continuous (see “Predicting the Next Disruptive Innovation” for more details).

When I was at Apple we solved the problem by moving from a Single mainframe to multiple servers and clients. This spread the bandwidth across more computers and provided more flexibility for doing ad-hoc reports.

BitTorrent is a Continuous solution. It doesn’t just spread the bandwidth over more computers, it spreads it over all the computers using the torrent. It produces the maximum bandwidth with the least vulnerability. It also flips the concept of speed on its head. Instead of getting slower as more computers download a file, it gets faster. Any computer connected to the torrent can share pieces with any other computer connected to the torrent. This is also how it reduces vulnerability. There are multiple sources for the pieces of the file, even if none of them have a complete copy of the file.