Microsoft, Groove partner on P-to-P wares

Microsoft Corp. and Groove Networks Inc. Wednesday announced that Microsoft is investing US$51 million in Groove Networks as part of a strategic partnership between the two companies aimed at developing peer-to-peer Web services and collaboration software.

Microsoft's investment in Groove, the P2P software company headed up by former Lotus inventor Ray Ozzie, fits in with Microsoft's vision of applications that work "any time, any place and on any device," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a prepared statement.

Over the last year, Microsoft and Groove have worked together on XML-based Web and peer services. XML is touted as a way to make valuable business data re-usable so it can be accessed by multiple applications on a corporate network.

About 13 months ago, Groove Networks unveiled Groove 1.0, collaborative software that gives end users a way to work together in secure, shared virtual spaces, either connected or disconnected from a central network. Because the software is peer-to-peer, users need point-to-point connections to each other that allow them to work outside of the traditional boundaries imposed by groupware. Using what Groove describes as personal connections, people can work with each other both inside and outside of a company for shared projects. The software can also be used as a business-to-customer communications tool.

While Groove's software focuses on peer-to-peer as a means for collaboration, others are looking at it as a way to pool hardware resources. Proponents say peer-to-peer networks are a way for companies to harness the collective power of the PCs, workstations and servers on their networks for compute- and storage-intensive jobs.

Instead of purchasing more hardware and software and hiring the IT staff needed to set up and support it, peer-to-peer computing could let users share valuable resources when they aren't being used - which is most of the time, according to observers.

Intel made a lot of noise last year when it talked about how it saved US$500 million over the last 10 years using a peer-to-peer application called Netbatch (Intel backs peer-to-peer computing). The application allows Intel engineers to harness more than 10,000 workstations across Intel Corp.'s network to do compute-intensive jobs for chip design, said Manny Vara, an Intel spokesman.

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