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Sharing equally

Peer-to-peer computing is cost efficient. Sharing equally Big business finally learns what small business has known for some time: Peer-to-peer computing is more cost efficient.

Get ready! In the next few months you’re going to hear the term “peer-to-peer” (P2P) until you’re sick of it. The idea of utilizing all computing resources equally is resonating loudly with the general business community these days.

Small-business leaders have always known that they must leverage every bit of their computing resources to remain competitive. Now, larger companies are about to discover the same thing in the form of new business applications that support peer-to-peer-based computing.

Until now, peer-to-peer computing has traditionally referred to computer networking. It has allowed businesses small and large to share resources among several machines, with each machine acting as both a server and a client.

Recently, I set up a wireless network in which all of the machines on the network perform in peer-to-peer mode (no differentiation between clients and servers). This works well, and it can be an inexpensive way for smaller companies to compute without huge expense.

The latest iteration of the term peer-to-peer has companies focusing on business applications. Drawing on the technology concepts of companies such as Napster, many technology providers are now focusing on moving peer-to-peer constructs from networking to applications and services.

New software and services soon will bear the peer-to-peer mark. Rather than sharing MP3s, however, businesses will be able to share business data in real time. This type of computing is expected to reduce data duplication, while speeding up workflow and productivity.

Today, a few companies such as NextPage are beginning to support peer-to-peer constructs in software solutions. In particular, NextPage offers a distributed content management solution that leverages peer-to-peer technology.

Peer-to-peer solutions will soon invade many software sectors as well. You might look at O’Reilly’s Open P2P site to get an idea of the many ways peer-to-peer technologies are being implemented. Sun Microsystems’ JXTA and Microsoft’s .Net technologies are also clearly pointed in the direction of peer-to-peer computing.

Today, we certainly can implement peer-to-peer networking or peer-to-peer software solutions, such as the messaging software known as Jabber. But in general, peer-to-peer technologies are only now beginning to reach general business applications. Small-business leaders should keep an eye out for solutions that support peer-to-peer technologies later this year. Implementing peer-to-peer technology at a network layer and within business applications will be very efficient for companies small and large.

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

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