Design space analysis for modeling incentives in distributed systems

Rahman, Rameez; Vinkó, Tamás; Hales, David; Pouwelse, Johan and Sips, Henk (2011). Design space analysis for modeling incentives in distributed systems. In: SIGCOMM Comput. Commun. Rev., ACM, New York, NY, USA, 41 pp. 182–193.



Distributed systems without a central authority, such as peer-to-peer (P2P) systems, employ incentives to encourage nodes to follow the prescribed protocol. Game theoretic analysis is often used to evaluate incentives in such systems. However, most game-theoretic analyses of distributed systems do not adequately model the repeated interactions of nodes inherent in such systems. We present a game-theoretic analysis of a popular P2P protocol, Bit-Torrent, that models the repeated interactions in such protocols. We also note that an analytical approach for modeling incentives is often infeasible given the complicated nature of most deployed protocols. In order to comprehensively model incentives in complex protocols, we propose a simulation-based method, which we call Design Space Analysis (DSA). DSA provides a tractable analysis of competing protocol variants within a detailed design space. We apply DSA to P2P file swarming systems. With extensive simulations we analyze a wide-range of protocol variants and gain insights into their robustness and performance. To validate these results and to demonstrate the efficacy of DSA, we modify an instrumented BitTorrent client and evaluate protocols discovered using DSA. We show that they yield higher system performance and robustness relative to the reference implementation.

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