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New P2P means business

Emerging peer-to-peer models manage distributed content easily. New P2P means business Emerging peer-to-peer models manage distributed content easily.

If I mention the term “peer-to-peer,” thoughts of systems, such as Napster and Gnutella, may spring to mind. These are examples of the atomistic form of peer-to-peer, where distributed processing and information exchange occurs between systems that are considered equal.

Applying the atomistic form of peer-to-peer in a business setting can lead to security-related issues, integration problems, and management woes. Interestingly, new forms of peer-to-peer technologies are beginning to show up, and early solutions will likely be applied to help companies manage content more easily.

One such example is NextPage’s NXT 3. This distributed content networking solution, though currently priced for larger companies, is indicative of the kinds of forthcoming solutions that are expected to implement peer-to-peer technologies in ways that are useful for businesses.

The NXT solution enables distributed content to be secured and managed–yet accessible to the end-user–in a single unified view. One example of this is the FedStats site, at which content from more than 100 government agencies is created and maintained by authors at each of the dispersed agencies. NXT manages that distributed content and makes it appear as a single unit to those visiting the Federal Statistics site. Nextpage does this by supplying a number of modules with the NXT solution that aggregate content, authenticate users, and provide support for varying file formats. Content can be created in different formats at different locations, and end-users can still access it via a browser interface. NXT will even convert file formats on the fly into viewable pages.

I recently tested NXT in a university scenario I created, and found that it did a good job of managing distributed content. I used everything from basic HTML pages to PDF documents, relational data, and office documents. My only real beef with NXT is its cost, and the fact that it currently supports only Solaris, Windows NT, and Windows 2000 server platforms.

I expect other peer-to-peer content networking solutions to arrive in the next six months that cost less and that support more platforms, including Linux. Small businesses will find these solutions useful even if they only have a single physical location. Allowing multiple users to create content on different systems–even at the same location–and having that content managed by a peer-to-peer content networking solution will simplify the process of managing most Web applications and Web sites. You won’t need to move content to a centralized location, you can make changes quickly, and your content will be managed in a secure manner.

Keep an eye on the emerging peer-to-peer content networking marketplace. Using peer-to-peer technology to improve content management is an idea whose time has come. I suspect we’ll also see peer-to-peer technology inserted into a wide variety of other business solutions during the next three years.

Contributing Editor Maggie Biggs has more than 15 years of business and IT experience in the financial sector.

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