February 13, 2001, 10:54 AM — In the evolution of new technology, there's a phase when nobody's quite sure exactly what to do with it but everybody can smell the potential. This is the case with peer-to-peer today. Hundreds of companies are building their business strategies around the idea of a distributed network with readily available computing power and useful information that can be easily shared. People are starting to get creative as they explore possibilities for collaborative applications or for ways to better leverage the network's computing resources.
Although a new industry is forming around this architecture, ultimately peer-to-peer will simply be another option. Whether to adopt a centralized or distributed architecture will depend largely on the application. Pragmatists will see a continuum between centralized applications and peer-to-peer, choosing what makes sense.
The IT industry is acutely aware that, before peer-to-peer can take hold in enterprises, a stronger foundation needs to be built with robust security and some level of IT control. A viable hybrid model will give end-users the flexibility to share documents and applications and still allow IT to exercise basic policies and control.
Peer-to-peer is powerful when end-users can share applications in a safe manner and potentially create new ones simply by linking together Web services. For example, a business analyst might collaborate on reports with a colleague in another company by sharing both the document and reporting application.
Our Page One story this week, by Tom Sullivan and Michael Vizard, points out how Web services and peer-to-peer foundations will feed off one another in the coming years. What's critical is that the industry is putting in the system-level pieces to make peer-to-peer a good corporate citizen.
Right now, however, many vendors will adopt the catchy peer-to-peer label more for marketing than for technical reasons. Such is the evolution of new technology.
Is peer-to-peer hype or will you look to capitalize on more distributed applications?