P-to-P boosts Web services

Two major emerging technology trends will converge this week when a number of startup companies move to link peer-to-peer computing architectures with evolving Web services platforms from companies such as Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

For the moment, the two technologies are distinct. But at the Demo 2001 show this week in Phoenix and the O'Reilly Peer-to-Peer Conference in San Francisco, several vendors will show off enterprise-grade technologies for developing peer-to-peer applications that, in turn, will help businesses take advantage of Web services.

"Web services are a booster for client-side innovation," said Ray Ozzie, CEO of p-to-p platform vendor Groove Networks Inc. "[P-to-P] gives you a way to access services and innovate at the edge by integrating services."

Web services -- which are applications that can be linked dynamically via networks -- will benefit from a p-to-p network architecture by harnessing available computing power and by leveraging application-location services.

At Demo 2001, XDegrees of Mountain View, Calif., will preview a new Internet service that allows applications and business processes to automatically locate one another on the Web. The company plans to demonstrate how its service can be used by turning Microsoft Outlook into a p-to-p application by embedding an applet in Microsoft Explorer. XDegrees offers its software as a service whereas other platforms, such as Groove's, require downloading a client.

Meanwhile, Consilient Inc., in Berkeley, Calif., will preview its namesake platform for linking business processes in a peer-to-peer architecture. Scheduled to be available in March, Consilient is built around Java and makes use of a Sitelet client code, XML containers, and Java to create a p-to-p infrastructure for any given set of processes, said company President Erik Freed.

According to Freed, the end result will be that the Sitelet will gather data and display it in a consistent, single user interface.

Even as vendors look to put these pieces in place, companies are beginning to seriously explore p-to-p architectures for business applications in conjunction with XML and Web-based application services.

"P-to-P is very key, mainly for building community and enabling a flow of good content," said Mark Hunt, director of XML strategy at London-based information services company Reuters PLC. "In the financial industry context, trading communities generate a lot of ideas. We can use p-to-p and instant messaging to connect that community together to form a feedback loop."

Whereas the search metaphor prompts people to seek out information, p-to-p networks have the capability of tracking what's relevant to a particular individual. Hunt added that the community and technology need to be high-grade, and they must be strengthened with security.

Intel Corp. tried last week to address the critical security problem when it made a free open-source library available for download. Intel's Peer-to-Peer Trusted Library allows software developers to add security, such as digital certificates, authentication, and public key encryption, to their p-to-p applications.

Although the developments on display both at Demo 2001 and at the O'Reilly Peer-to-Peer Conference this week (see chart, below) may further the accessibility of Web services, both markets are still nascent and need standards as well as technologies, said Simon Yates, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. Convergence of the technologies will evolve in the long term.

"We know p-to-p changes the way devices talk to each other, and we know it will be important, but we don't how it will be used for business yet," Yates added. "As for Web services, ultimately what individuals will be able to do is piece together the applications they need from a variety of external services."

With additional reporting by Martin LaMonica, Ed Scannell, Cathleen Moore, and Ephraim Schwartz.

Groove shoots to make peer-to-peer enterprise-friendlyGroove Networks, the peer-to-peer startup founded by Notes inventor Ray Ozzie, is developing a central console for its upcoming platform that will allow enterprises to manage a range of IT-related services.

Expected to be included in the first release of the product by the end of the first quarter, the management services will allow administrators to set security policies for their organizations, administer software licenses to individual users, and manipulate names within a directory.

"We can't expect enterprises to support our product without this software," Ozzie said.

Groove will sell the management services software on a per-seat basis, according to Ozzie. Customers will be charged depending on how many services they want or need.

Ozzie said the management software should give companies a balance between autonomy for end-users on the edge of the network and control for IT administrators.

"In deference to the enterprises we can't expect them to just introduce chaos into their organizations. We have to be respectful of the way enterprises evaluate and deploy software," Ozzie said.

Ultimately, the console will link into SNMP-based network management platforms, he said.

After the product's first release to early customers, a general-availability version will ship around midyear.

Filling in p-to-p gaps

Vendors are grafting enterprise development technology onto p-to-p.

Security: Intel Trusted Library adds authenticationNaming: XDegrees locates applicationsMessaging: Consilient synchronizes and links processes on network

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More about ConsilientEvolveForrester ResearchGroove NetworksIntelMartin LaMonicaMicrosoftPhoenixReillyReuters AustraliaSun MicrosystemsXdegreesYATES

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