Peer-to-peer under the spotlight –

At the Demo 2001 show this week in Phoenix, at least three companies will launch peer-to-peer platforms upon which corporate developers can create applications.

United Devices Inc., based in Austin, Texas, already has its first corporate customer for its MetaProcessor Platform that aggregates idle computer resources on distributed client systems. The product will officially ship in March.

Exodus Communications Inc., the collocation and hosting giant, is piloting the use of the MetaProcessor platform to do Web site load and stress testing with actual PCs, rather than simulating Web usage.

United Devices' technology uses a server as a "command center" to manage processor activity across a distributed application.

Users willing to participate download a client software component that allows the server to poll the PC for configuration information and the availability of unused processor cycles. The server matches PC capability against jobs it needs to run, distributing processing tasks to appropriate systems.

"There is no obvious degradation in the performance of a PC when idle processor cycles are used in the background, " said Jikku Venkat, vice president of engineering at United Devices.

United's platform is also being used in cancer research and for protein sequencing projects.

Ecertain is taking a different approach to peer-to-peer. The company already offers a server-based product called Digital Certainty, which verifies and creates an audit trail of all incoming and outgoing files. This includes the time and date of transmission, time and date of receipt, and any other information to prove with legal certainty that a transaction took place.

The company is now set to launch a peer-to-peer version of the product for the medical records market. In the medical market, transmissions of large files, such as MRIs (magnetic resonance images) and X-rays, can be costly in a client/server architecture.

"In medical, there is a high level of transactions and an unknown file size. It is important to keep transaction costs low so we created a peer-to-peer solution," said Neil Iscoe, CEO and founder of Ecertain, in Austin, Texas.

Because the peer-to-peer solution is not dependent on a central server system for file transfer between PCs, it reduces the cost of transmission as well as the time while still being able to verify that a record was sent or received. Verification is critical for compliance with new U.S. government regulations on electronic transfer of medical records.

2Bridge, based in San Francisco, will unveil a product called 2Bridge Personal Server that its founder, Mansoor Zakaria, calls "file sharing on steroids."

The peer-to-peer technology allows any user to create a so-called "container" on a hard drive and deposit in the container any type of content, graphics, music, video, multimedia or text files. The owner of the container sets the rights and permissions rules for privacy management. Users download a client component and are able to access any of the files within the container.

"Anyone can be their own Yahoo," said Zakaria, and run a portal from their own machine.

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