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©MMII Matt Moody

 

can you see the future?

The future of peer-to-peer computing is bright. Napster’s prominence has brought this form of networking back into the spotlight and there are a few pioneers working on keeping it there.

One of the largest proponents of peer-to-peer networks is Intel. Intel was one of the first corporations to take advantage of the ability of peer-to-peer computing to harness unused computing power of PCs. The company now heads up a peer-to-peer working group that includes IBM and Hewlett-Packard which plans to establish standards for management and security, define protocols, and hammer out solutions to arising problems. Intel’s Pat Gelsinger has said that peer-to-peer technologies will usher in the next era of the internet and change computing as we know it. He encourages companies to look into using these technologies to create webs to share resources much as Intel has done.

Peer-to-peer computing’s future is bright for individual consumers as well. Porivo has created a commercial product that allows users to donate their idle desktop computing power and in turn be qualified to win $10,000. Its peerReview software utilizes the spare computing resources of thousand of peer computers to detect and analyze the performance bottlenecks of the Internet. Programs similar to this are becoming available and will allow any person with a PC and internet access to truly make money from their computer’s power that would otherwise be squandered.

And for those leaning toward the philanthropic, computing power can be donated for a good cause. Intel has created a philanthropic network of more than 2 million computers worldwide that donate computing power to the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Stanford University and Oxford University. Again, this is just a start and as it catches on with individuals, research institutes are beginning to see the benefits of peer-to-peer computing and this activity will soon be even more widespread.

The challenge to peer-to-peer computing is making the sharing process seamless and to truly distribute applications that any number of peers can join in or opt out without jeopardizing the solution. Companies that are working toward these goals today include Entropia, Mithral Communications & Design and United Devices.

A medium for peer-to-peer networking that is still largely untapped is that of the wireless world. Bill Joy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, demonstrated a network composed of cellular phones, PDAs and other wireless devices that communicated via Sun’s JXTA architecture in late 2001. Businesses within a certain geographical range could send real-time offers to the devices. Joy offered the example of nearby gas stations bidding for a consumer’s business. The technology also would allow consumers to join with other vehicles in the area and arrange volume purchases for discounts.

While there are plenty of possible applications of peer-to-peer networking that are under development now, perhaps its greatest strength is that there are so many more applications that are still unknown. Gelsinger compared the wave of peer-to-peer applications to the release of Mosiac, the first popular Web browser. Just as it was impossible then to imagine eBay, Amazon or Yahoo! it is impossible to envision all the different applications of peer-to-peer networking. But Gelsinger said, and others in the industry agree, the applications of peer-to-peer are limitless.

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