Interpersonal network communications, including Voice over IP (VoIP) and Instant Messaging (IM), are increasingly popular communications tools. However, systems to date have generally adopted a client-server model, requiring complex centralized infrastructure, or have not adhered to any VoIP or IM standard. Many deployment scenarios either require no central equipment, or due to unique properties of the deployment, are limited or rendered unattractive by central servers. To address these scenarios, we present a solution based on the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) standard, utilizing a decentralized Peer-to-Peer (P2P) mechanism to distribute data. Our new approach, P2PSIP, enables users to communicate with minimal or no centralized servers, while providing secure, real-time, authenticated communications comparable in security and performance to centralized solutions.
We present two complete protocol descriptions and system designs. The first, the SOSIMPLE/dSIP protocol, is a P2P-over-SIP solution, utilizing SIP both for the transport of P2P messages and personal communications, yielding an interoperable, single-stack solution for P2P communications. The RELOAD protocol is a binary P2P protocol, designed for use in a SIP-using-P2P architecture where an existing SIP application is modified to use an additional, binary RELOAD stack to distribute user information without need for a central server.
To meet the unique security needs of a fully decentralized communications system, we propose an enrollment-time certificate authority model that provides asserted identity and strong P2P and user-level security. In this model, a centralized server is contacted only at enrollment time. No run-time connections to the servers are required.
Additionally, we show that traditional P2P message routing mechanisms are inappropriate for P2PSIP. The existing mechanisms are generally optimized for file sharing and neglect critical practical elements of the open Internet — namely link-level security and asymmetric connectivity caused by Network Address Translators (NATs). In response to these shortcomings, we introduce a new message routing paradigm, Adaptive Routing (AR), and using both analytical models and simulation show that AR significantly improves message routing performance for P2PSIP systems.
Our work has led to the creation of a new research topic within the P2P and interpersonal communications communities, P2PSIP. Our seminal publications have provided the impetus for subsequent P2PSIP publications, for the listing of P2PSIP as a topic in conference calls for papers, and for the formation of a new working group in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), directed to develop an open Internet standard for P2PSIP.