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In peer-to-peer (P2P) networks nodes are interconnected with each other. In client/server (C/S) networks clients talks to the server. If in a C/S network clients also want to talk with each other (such as in a multiplayer online game), then clients would have to communicate through the server.

Given these, is it possible determine which architecture is more bandwidth consuming?

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One would say that P2P is better. But in reality, you cannot tell by the information you provided.

For instance, the bandwidth depends on queuing delays. Therefore, assume that one of the nodes in the P2P network has a very small queue (or overloaded), while our server is super powerful and its queue is hugly big ! Similarly, it depends on the latency of the nodes.

It depends on the bandwidth of the channels in the network. It depends on the round trip time. Therefore, P2P peers may be very far away from each other ! (China, Iran, Venzuela for example). etc ..

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It depends on what you are measuring. A well-designed P2P network will spread the load among the members evenly, so the maximal load is just a fraction of the case in an C/S system (where all traffic goes to the server). In terms of total traffic, P2P uses more, as there is no guarantee that the answer to a question is at the node asked, and that node will have to find one that has the answer and get it before answering.

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It is a general question so let's answer equally generally:

A P2P network structure once established will always have the potential to consume less bandwidth than a client-server approach. To see this just think that the client-server is one given structure (clients all send their data to the server and the server responds back). P2P can generally form any structure including the above if it thinks it is good for what it wants to accomplish. So it could always be at least as good as C/S or better.

On the other hand a P2P network will have some overhead to form and maintain its structure. So if its life is long enough (e.g. a file download is large enough) only then is the gain worth it.

Regarding bandwidth let's also think that consuming bandwidth is not a problem if enough bandwidth is available (the cables do not mind if data is passing through them or not). Consuming bandwidth is only a problem when there is not enough bandwidth for everyone. This brings us to a more important benefit of P2P. Client-server connections create bottlenecks as more traffic is concentrated the closer to the server we get. A P2P structure typically aims to avoid traffic concentration ponts, not to mention single point such as a server.

There are also more considerations than bandwidth you should take into account when selecting a P2P or C/S model.

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