January 09, 2001, 2:17 PM — Peer-to-peer, or p-to-p, networking has been resurrected as well. The p-to-p systems implemented by Napster and other MP3 sites link hundreds of thousands of clients and their files to each other, representing a variation on p-to-p's original incarnation. As a result, it has become the latest industry darling.
In its original form p-to-p worked well as a way to share files between small groups of computers. But networking restrictions limited the number of computers that could be linked together. The Internet changed that.
"The technology of p-to-p is potentially very powerful, because you're now linking literally millions of users together in ways we've never really been able to facilitate before," Phifer says. "The sharing aspects there are tremendous. There's a lot of potential in p-to-p that we've just begun to scratch the surface of."
As a result, companies are searching for a way to leverage the technology for business, focusing on collaborative applications, nonmiddleman auctions, and search applications that could pull relevant information of all types from network users.
"Peer-to-peer networking will come of age once directory services are the norm and access rights and authentication mechanisms are sharable across [and] between companies [and] organizations," adds Alan Boehme, e-business CIO of GE Power Systems, in Atlanta, and a member of InfoWorld's CTO Advisory Board.
Security remains a serious concern for business p-to-p: Because it directly links computers, little can stop a malicious hacker from grabbing confidential information rather than MP3 files. Also, companies contemplating extensions of p-to-p models must avoid the fate that befell push, where one bad experience or association tarnishes its future.
"P-to-P has really just caught on, and I hope the backlash against Napster isn't going to cause the technology to suffer in adoption," Phifer says.