A digital fountain approach to asynchronous reliable multicast

The proliferation of applications that must reliably distribute large, rich content to a vast number of autonomous receivers motivates the design of new multicast and broadcast protocols. We describe an ideal, fully scalable protocol for these applications that we call a digital fountain. A digital fountain allows any number of heterogeneous receivers to acquire content with optimal efficiency at times of their choosing. Moreover, no feedback channels are needed to ensure reliable delivery, even in the face of high loss rates. We develop a protocol that closely approximates a digital fountain using two new classes of erasure codes that for large block sizes are orders of magnitude faster than standard erasure codes. We provide performance measurements that demonstrate the feasibility of our approach and discuss the design, implementation, and performance of an experimental system.