Intel gets Napster fever –

San Jose, Calif. -- Can Napster-style computing be tamed to meet corporate needs?

Napster peer-to-peer communications creates huge LAN traffic and is often the network administrator's bane. However, technology leaders at Intel Corp. think it will prove useful. To promote this idea, the company and other key industry players Thursday announced the formation of the Peer-to-Peer Working Group. The group's goal is to drive standards aimed at business environments.

Intel is joined by Applied MetaComputing, CenterSpan, Groove Networks, Hewlett- Packard, IBM, and others.

At an Intel Developer Forum Conference keynote here on Thursday, Patrick Gelsinger, vice president and CTO of the Intel Architecture Group, positioned peer-to-peer computing as "the revolution that can change computing as we know it."

"Peer-to-peer computing could be as important to the Internet's future as the Web browser was to its past," said Gelsinger. "The most visible impact of this model has been in consumer environments, 'but' peer-to-peer computing has the potential to play a major role in business computing as well."

By adding peer-to-peer capabilities, corporations can tap into existing teraflops of performance and terabytes of storage to make today's applications more efficient and enable future applications, Gelsinger asserted.

Gelsinger said Intel has cut costs tremendously by implementing collaborative computing architectures as part of chip development. He said that an in-house system, known as the NetBatch environment, currently links about 10,000 systems.

What remains to be discovered, he said, is "how to make peer-to-peer 'computing' a viable computing model."

"We need to create common protocols to drive ease of use and address security concerns," Gelsinger said.

Earlier this week, Intel CEO Craig Barrett told assembled Intel developers that peer- to-peer networking "will have a material impact on our industry."

Peer-to-peer is not unfamiliar, Barrett maintained.

"Peer-to-peer issues are not dissimilar to issues IT departments face now in getting multiple groups scattered around the country or the world to work together," he said, "while citing challenges in scalability, fault tolerance, legacy support, multiple languages, heterogeneity of operating systems, and hardware."

"We see peer-to-peer computing having an important impact on 'business-to-business' computing in the future," Barrett said.

Some viewers have noted it is not surprising that the leading voice of desktop processing power values decentralized computing over highly centralized computing. Intel has tended to lag somewhat in high-end computing systems. Its push to make peer- to-peer popular will be closely watched.

Includes material from IDG News Service, and reporting by Jack Vaughan,

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