P-to-P aims for the spotlight at O'Reilly show
THE MODEL FOR peer-to-peer computing received a sizable boost this week as established companies such as Sun Microsystems worked side-by-side with startups to create an industry foothold for the emerging architecture.
Sun captured the spotlight at the O'Reilly Peer-to-Peer Conference in San Francisco with news that it is developing a software platform for p-to-p computing designed to provide a base for writing distributed applications. Dubbed Juxtapose, the platform will be an addition to Sun's family of Web-based programming languages, which includes Jini and Java.
Juxtapose provides an initial code layer that will allow other vendors to build p-to-p applications that interoperate, Bill Joy, Sun's chief scientist, said at the show.
According to one analyst, p-to-p may provide a means for garnering more power from Sun's hardware.
"Many people feel that peer-to-peer is the next big frontier for Sun," said Rob Enderle, vice president at Giga Information Group in Santa Clara, Calif. "Their machines have excess capability that isn't used for much of the time. If you can tap that, people believe you can get more out of the equipment. As a result, it looks like free money to a potential customer."
Another big name vendor, Novell, also had a presence at the show.
Eric Schmidt, CEO and chairman of the Provo, Utah-based company, took part in a panel discussion exploring p-to-p's value in the enterprise. Schmidt said Novell is examining the technology.
"You need a consumer adoption strategy," Schmidt said. "If you have a killer app, with no adoption strategy, you won't get there."
"[P-to-p] is in the early stages where you need to make sure the technology works and [know] what people will use it for," Schmidt added in an interview.
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft tested the waters at the show with a booth and by participating in a conference panel discussion.
Dave Stutz, software architect at Microsoft, expressed interest in the value of p-to-p infrastructure as a window on society.
"P-to-p is a successful phenomenon because it reflects society better than other types of computing architectures," Stutz said during the panel discussion. "It is similar to when, iin the 1980s, the PC gave us a better reflection of the user. P-to-p is going to become very important."
Although Stutz did not reveal any specific plans Microsoft has for p-to-p architectures, he said he envisioned p-to-p technology being used in the core development of business and consumer software products.
Many of the smaller ventures showcased innovative platforms and applications in hopes of capturing the fancy of the venture capitalist community, which was out in force at the show.
Often viewed as a visionary in the p-to-p market, Groove Networks founder and CEO Ray Ozzie played a prominent role in several panels and keynote speeches. For emerging p-to-p architectures to have a chance for success in enterprise environments, Ozzie said that applications and systems need to respect core enterprise values and concerns, including maintaining control of networks and bandwidth.
"We need to understand the enterprise mind-set: Do no harm," Ozzie said. "The enterprise has a need to know what is going on at the edge of networks."
New computing platforms must satisfy core business objectives or at least provide opportunity and competitive advantage, Ozzie said.
Despite the excitement and interest in p-to-p from a variety of enterprise-savvy vendors, Giga's Enderle cautioned of significant risks.
Jack McCarthy and Ashlee Vance, a reporter at IDG New Service, an InfoWorld affiliate, contributed to this article.