If we take a broad view of the term ``multicast'' to mean any distribution of content to more than one machine, we find that multicast is proceeding along two distinct architectural tracks. On one track is IP multicast, which mainly targets realtime non-reliable applications, but for which hopes run high for reliable applications as well. On the other are a plethora of open or proprietary host- or server-based approaches, each typically targeting a specific application or product line.
IP multicast suffers from a number of technical problems, lacks applications, and in general is having trouble reaching critical mass, especially regarding anything resembling a global infrastructure. Server-based approaches are valuable and wide-spread, but there is no synergy in terms of multiple distinct groups working within the same architecture. As a result, progress is not as fast as it could be, and consumers are strapped with multiple application-specific infrastructures to deal with.
This paper presents an architecture, called yoid, that aims to unify both tracks under a single umbrella architecture. Yoid attempts to take the best from both tracks--reliable and asynchronous distribution from the server-based track, and dynamic auto-configuration via a simple API from the IP multicast track.
A key component of yoid is that it allows a group of endhosts (the hosts where the content-consuming application resides) to auto-configure themselves into a tunneled topology for the purpose of content distribution. Yoid can run over IP multicast, but does not require it. This allows application developers to bundle yoid into their applications, giving their applications robust and scalable configuration-free out-of-the-box multicast. This is key to the initial acceptance of yoid and for allowing it to reach critical mass.
Yoid is not limited, however, to endhost-based distribution. It
can also work in infrastructure servers (boxes that receive, replicate,
and forward content but that are not consumers of the content). This allows
improved performance for applications that require it. It can also provide
other benefits such as better security. The endhost- and server-based modes
of operation taken together, along with yoid's ability to utilize local
islands of IP multicast, allow yoid to support the broadest possible
range of applications.