Peer-to-peer networking has caused a dramatic increase in Internet traffic. Depending on the analysis methodology, P2P networking accounts for 60 to 89 percent of all Internet traffic.
P2P uses the computing power at the edge of a connection rather than within the network. The concept of clients or servers does not exist. Instead, peer nodes function as both clients and servers to other network nodes.
Although pure P2P networks exist, almost all efficient P2P networks use a hybrid approach in which the critical applications of indexing and searching are implemented in a client/server form, and data transfer is accomplished in a P2P manner. This technology is analogous to a router's use of a route or table look-up processor and multiple forwarding processors.
Most corporate networkers believe P2P, with its ability to "hog" bandwidth and its myriad security issues, is a consumer phenomenon. This is a misconception that in the future may be the undoing of the corporate network. P2P network applications such as KaZaA or Napster may not have a place in the corporate environment, but the same cannot be said for BitTorrent's File Sharing technology, currently being used for Linux software distribution, and Groove Networks' Virtual Office application, designed for shared workspace/online collaboration.
The use of BitTorrent and Groove software currently does not impose a significant bandwidth demand on corporate networks. But Microsoft's recent acquisition of Groove may drastically change the bandwidth consumption equation. One of Microsoft's stated intentions is to add Groove's P2P technology to its next-generation operating system called Longhorn. With Longhorn's arrival on the desktop and server, Microsoft may single-handedly redistribute and accelerate corporate bandwidth demand.
Also on the horizon is another corporate networking nightmare called the grid. Lo and behold, the underpinning of all grid technology is P2P. With the adoption of Globus 4.0 as the new XML-based protocol standard, grid services will become the P2P of Web services.
As corporate terminal-mainframe centralized networking evolved into client/server distributed networking, so shall all forms of corporate networking eventually evolve into P2P. Complexity is the norm, with today's clients and servers becoming next-generation IT peer nodes. All edge nodes will become highly intelligent.
Be forewarned, get educated and be prepared for the network implications of corporate IT P2P applications. The corporate next-generation network future may be just around the corner in 2006.
Frank Dzubeck is president of industry analyst Communications Network Architects