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A super-peer is a node in a peer-to-peer network that operates both as a server to a set of clients, and as an equal in a network of super-peers. Super-peer networks strike a balance between the efficiency of centralized search, and the autonomy, load balancing and robustness to attacks provided by distributed search. Furthermore, they take advantage of the heterogeneity of capabilities (e.g., bandwidth, processing power) across peers, which recent studies have shown to be enormous. Hence, new and old P2P systems like KaZaA and Gnutella are adopting super-peers in their design. Despite their growing popularity, the behavior of super-peer networks is not well understood. For example, what are the potential drawbacks of super-peer networks? How can super-peers be made more reliable? How many clients should a super-peer take on to maximize efficiency? we examine super-peer networks in detail, gaming an understanding of their fundamental characteristics and performance tradeoffs. We also present practical guidelines and a general procedure for the design of an efficient super-peer network.