P2P Goes to Work

By Shammi Gill  |  Posted 2001-08-06

P2P Goes to Work

Peer-to-peer computing—the sharing of computer resources and services by direct exchange between systems—is more than just hip. Napster made P2P famous and showed how scalable and effective this technology could be for exchanging information. It also gave advance warning of the security, manageability and difficult enterprise integration hurdles that loom before P2P can truly benefit companies.

Judging from the parade of products coming into eWeek Labs, "peer to peer" has become a catchall phrase for everything from collaboration and content distribution to e-mail and file sharing applications.

P2P is an emerging technology that hasnt yet proved itself in the enterprise and, in many ways, is still just trying to get in the door. eWeek Labs recommends investigating P2P-based packages in the few areas they have reached some maturity—in particular, content management and group collaboration—for their innovative design.

However, the lack of P2P standards and the retraining process that groupware-oriented packages demand are going to be large stumbling blocks for the foreseeable future.

Our tests of Groove Networks Inc.s Groove 1.1 and NextPage Inc.s NXT 3 e-Content Platform show P2P can help organizations tap otherwise unused computing power and boost storage and bandwidth to free up server resources. These two recent arrivals take aim at different market segments: Groove 1.1 provides extended collaboration capabilities using P2P technology; NXT 3 e-Content Platform offers a content distribution portal for exchanging files.

Under a Groove

Under a Groove

The Groove 1.1 enterprise-class peer computing platform is a beefed-up collaboration application that allows users to create shared spaces for small group interactions.

Leveraging P2P architecture for online and offline work and one-to-one or one-to-many collaboration, Groove offers flexibility to users. However, it lacks document version control and its administration features are weak; plus, its limited to Windows 9x, NT and 2000 environments. (Macintosh and Linux support is planned.)

Groove 1.1, which was released last month, is priced at $49 per user. A free preview edition can be downloaded at www. groove.net.

The upgraded software offers the standard collaboration tools found in other groupware/collaboration software suites such as Microsoft Corp.s Exchange Server and Centrinity Inc.s First Class, including instant messaging, chat and voice chat capabilities, threaded discussions, calendars, and document sharing. However, it also provides new message history logging, integration with Microsoft Office and NetMeeting, and co-Web browsing.

We tested Groove 1.1 on a 60-node test network running Windows 2000 Professional clients. Installation was quick and simple—registering to the relay server took merely seconds. The user interface was easy to follow, and screen views enabled us to follow the progress of multiple projects simultaneously. Adding members was a breeze, and the interface showed which users were online and which ones were off. Messages and chat sessions were simple to open and close as needed.

When we created a shared space and invited users to join, Grooves administration tools enabled us to quickly bestow Manager, Participant or Guest privileges on each user. As a Manager, we could view all members on the screen and what sections they were in. The co-Web browsing tool, which enables everyone in a group to see a particular Web site, was very helpful.

Documents can be edited in real time, and users can work on the same document concurrently, with latest versions being displayed. The steep downside is that theres no version control: Updated documents take precedent, and old documents cant be recovered.

Currently, Groove 1.1 does not integrate with any document management product. However, the platform does include an open-source Groove Development Kit, and this development kits open API gives outside vendors the ability to tailor applications and customize and expand the platforms capabilities.

EWeek Labs

// Executive Summary: Groove 1.1">

EWeek Labs // Executive Summary: Groove 1.1


Groove Networks updated software package lets users share files, messages and work on projects, creating a productive area where group work can be completed quickly. However, the application needs document version management to be compelling for enterprise use.

SHORT-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // Groove 1.1 enables users to quickly get started collaborating on projects, with many tools instantly at their disposal.

LONG-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // This packages tools and messaging features will help small groups finish projects faster, creating a more productive environment.

Quick installation; easy to use.

Windows-only package; lack of P2P standards means future compatibility with other products is unknown.

Groove Networks Inc., Beverly, Mass.; (978) 720-2000; www.groovenetworks.com

NXT Serves Up P2P

NXT Serves Up P2P

Another P2P option we tested is NextPages NXT 3 e-Content Platform, which shipped in June priced at $85,000 for 250 users and unlimited servers.

NXT 3 uses server-based P2P technology for distributed content management in large networks. The product acts as a content-sharing portal but neednt be aggregated to one server, offering less server strain than traditional content portals.

Installation and configuration are time-consuming propositions because of the integrated features, and are also dependent on the size of an organizations information base.

NXT 3 comes with seven built-in modules that interact with one another to manipulate content anywhere on the network. Its open-source architecture includes administration, content management and content delivery.

The Security Services module uses Secure Sockets Layer, access control modules and data encryption, enabling secure delivery of content. The Rapid- Apps module provides a Web-based user interface for navigating, searching and receiving relevant content.

We installed NXT 3 on a test system consisting of a Windows 2000 Advanced Server (Solaris is also supported) network of four servers. After configuration was complete and content was populated across the network, we easily sent, retrieved and managed a variety of content.

The user interface was very easy to navigate and simplified administration chores: We could easily set users rights to content and separated users into groups. NXT 3 supports disparate data formats, including HTML; Extensible Markup Language; Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint; Adobe Systems Inc.s PDF; Lotus Development Corp.s Notes; and Open Database Connectivity-compliant formats.

Centralized management made it easy to edit and delete content throughout the network. Advanced searches (including Boolean) and metadata analysis are supported.

EWeek Labs

// Executive Summary: NXT 3 e-Content Platform">

EWeek Labs // Executive Summary: NXT 3 e-Content Platform


NextPages updated server-based P2P platform provides a fast way to share content. Although configuration can be a strenuous process, the ability to share various types of content will make NXT 3 worthwhile for large companies that need networkwide access to content.

SHORT-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // Once installed and configured, NXT 3 creates a content-sharing portal for all users on the network, improving productivity of users who must access information quickly.

LONG-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // Integrated access to structured and unstructured content will provide users with more flexibility in the types of content they share and save time when accessing disparate types of information from a single point.

Easy-to-use GUI; supports Windows and Solaris systems.

Difficult setup and configuration; lack of P2P standards means future compatibility with other products is unknown.

NextPage Inc., Lehi, Utah; (801) 768-7500; www.nextpage.com

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