Ray Ozzie, others spell out evolution of P2P

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pioneers in peer-to-peer technology Wednesday wrestled with the future of the technology amid the specter of its imminent demise.

Speaking on a peer-to-peer panel at InfoWorld's CTO Forum, Groove Networks Inc. founder Ray Ozzie refuted the idea being circulated in the mainstream media that Napster Inc.'s demise signaled trouble for the technology.

"I've always viewed different technology as a means to an end, not an end in itself," said Ozzie, whose peer-to-peer company is in Beverly, Mass. He said it was "puzzling" that such technology continues to receive so much attention when most organizations are investigating alternative, decentralized technologies for communication and collaboration.

Dan Bricklin, founder of Concord, Mass.-based Trellix Corp. agreed, saying, "P2P isn't just for file-sharing." He said wireless technology based on the 802.11b standard is one example of a technology that will drive demand for peer-to-peer communication and collaboration between individuals, but in a decentralized, ad hoc manner.

"We have to assume individuals are going to be sending a lot of stuff directly to each other, not via a central server," he said.

Dan Werthimer, chief scientist at SETI@home project, explained that his project has created the world's largest supercomputer by using the "spare" resources of millions of individuals' PCs to process data collected from space in a search for extraterrestrial intelligence. This is one of the best examples of peer-to-peer technology in practice, he argued.

However, where the enterprise is concerned, security and scalability loom as the largest issues to be tackled, Werthimer said. In addition to that, panel moderator Glenn Ricart noted "we're seeing more and more caching moving to the edge of the network."

According to Ozzie, also the inventor of Lotus Development Corp.'s Notes, the security technology already exists to enable peer-to-peer communication securely across the firewall. But the biggest issue is establishing whether centralized or decentralized control will serve as the best model inside the enterprise.

"My experience with Notes is [that] the biggest single issue with any technology is the people," Ozzie said. Users often forget to check encryption logs or perform other basic security functions, he noted. "Security should always be on," he said.

As for the future of peer-to-peer technology, Ozzie said, "You won't be talking about P2P."

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