February 26, 2001, 12:37 PM — ARE YOU AS excited as I am by the news from last week's O'Reilly Peer-to-Peer Conference in San Francisco? If b-to-b integration has any bearing on your business objective, you should be.
Although Napster's been busy holding litigious hounds at bay, other companies have been ramping up peer-to-peer computing for more than mere file sharing. What's developing, and relatively quickly, is a brilliant union of p-to-p with the capabilities of budding Web service platforms.
Arguably, this permutation is no longer "peer" computing in the strictest sense. For that matter, Napster isn't true p-to-p because it utilizes a central server for lookup and address resolution. But given a somewhat loose interpretation, this hybridization of p-to-p is providing terra firma for some impressive b-to-b functionality.
What you get by coupling p-to-p with eservice fundamentals, such as the XML-based UDDI (Universal Discovery and Description Interface), is the capability for applications and business processes to locate and engage one another on the fly. They can then be automated to autonomously accomplish everything from procurement to purchasing process cycles on available systems. This occurs without human intervention, prearranged hardware or software synchronization, or the need for an expensive overhaul of your existing infrastructure.
Although UDDI describes what a business or service does (including particulars such as the interface, cost, and billing requirements), p-to-p reduces workflow friction found in comparable server-mediated transactions and enables advertising and lookup to take place on a grand scale.
At this time last year everyone was touting the benefits of b-to-b exchanges. But b-to-b proved far more complicated to implement than vendors would have you believe. What is needed is not just a new way of buying and selling goods and services. B-to-b needs to support the process of flexible participation, providing access without setting prohibitive requirements or demanding a complete overhaul of an existing EDI (electronic data interchange) system.
P-to-p looks to be adding a new wrinkle to the fabric of b-to-b participation.
Making those wrinkles are companies such as Groove Networks. With a hybrid, peer architecture, Groove is delivering an application development platform, APIs, protocols, and tools that can streamline business processes with improved collaboration and communication capabilities.
Also providing new plumbing options is Consilient, with its software container-bot technology, dubbed Sitelets. Sitelets wrap a process or transaction in ubiquitous XML and use an existing messaging infrastructure, such as MQSeries or e-mail, to route intra-or intercompany. Users can act on or add to data and then send it along for further processing.