P2P finds business applications

Peer-to-peer computing has moved beyond music file swapping to offering business users a secure environment for collaboration and...

Peer-to-peer computing has moved beyond music file swapping to offering business users a secure environment for collaboration and sharing data.

Several technologies that exploit peer-to-peer-based infrastructures are gaining traction on the enterprise desktop, enabling functions such as secure collaboration and thwarting unwanted e-mail messages.

Dana Gardner, research director at Aberdeen Group, believes companies are increasingly looking to peer-based technologies for solutions to specific problems, such as improving collaboration.

One example is TrueDisk.com's Extempo server-based software which is designed to create virtual extranets for secure file sharing and ad-hoc collaboration. Commenting on how the product works Doug Pollack, president and CEO of TrueDisk, said: "The idea is to tie together peer-based technologies and a very strong security architecture to enable people to remotely but securely get access to corporate files."

Peer-based technologies offer a simple, yet powerful way to provide secure remote access to files, e-mail, and other desktop applications, according to Pollack. Using P2P technologies in the enterprise makes it very easy to empower people to share in a dynamic environment, according to Pollack.

Furthermore, P2P provides a way to securely share files with trusted partners from different companies. "Peer-based technology gives you that added ability to do [secure file sharing] at a finer level of granularity than with other technologies," Pollack said.

Another firm, Cloudmark, is tapping P2P to support a community-based network for fighting spam. The company's SpamNet is a Microsoft Outlook add-in tool designed to allow users to block unwanted e-mail from their in-boxes and notify the SpamNet community that the message is spam. Once a user chooses to block a spam message and to alert the community, the notification is sent through the SpamNet network. The system uses algorithms and cryptography to identify a stream of content and attach an assertion with it, such as the number of people who think a particular message is spam.

Jordan Ritter, founder and CTO of Cloudmark said: "SpamNet allows people to collaboratively take part in a distributed network and share information about what they think is spam."

Similar to the idea of using Napster to share music, SpamNet allows users to share preferences about what they think is spam. "We are trying to fight a socially distributed problem in a socially distributed way," Ritter said.

Another vendor, Advanced Reality, recently rolled out an adapter that allows enterprise users to launch secure P2P-based collaborative sessions within Microsoft PowerPoint.

The Presence-AR Adapter for Microsoft PowerPoint aims to allow an unlimited number of users to collaborate in interactive presentations over LAN and WAN links using a standard version of the PowerPoint application.

According to Derek Ruths, co-founder and CTO of Advanced Reality tapping P2P allows the adapter to provide what the company calls "mutability". This allows a collaborative presentation to persist even when the host of the session signs off or is disconnected.

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