IBM chiefs dampen ‘Intel inspired’ Napster P2P hysteria

Napster model not cure for ailments of world+dog

IBM's software general and his top brass gathered at the company's Hawthorne Research Lab in New York State this week to give a state of the nation update.

The execs batted back questions about the Peer to Peer hype with as much force as they could. Almost but not quite implying that the ruse was got up by Intel.
Which was pretty the view of non-aligned engineers at the inaugural Intel sponsored P2P Working Group (of which IBM is a member) earlier this month. Engineers gave a hands-off warning to Chipzilla, pointing them in the direction of the established Internet protocol body the IETF.

"You can't apply the Napster model to business," said head software honcho and senior IBM VP Steve Mills.

"You're not going to want so many server hops between you and the data. I think path length delays will be an issue. People work by searching and trying to understand 'I need this for this purpose and then I'm going to move on'".

And p2p in practice will be pretty messy too, they suggested. "You can't afford to replicate data all over the place" reckoned John Swainson General Manager of IBM's middleware business. "It doesn't make much sense. Federating data sense," although IBM's DB2 boss Janet Perna pointed out that this didn't mean stuffing everything into the database, either, which is the world according to Larry. IBM instead talked up its connectors, which keep links to the data which stays outside DB2, but can still be indexed and searched, citing Boeing as an example.

With a properly distributed system, reckoned Swainson, the topology needn't be p2p or hierarchical, but should give you the flexibility to swap them around at will.

In any case, Notes boss Cliff Reeves was on hand to point out that IBM's Notes QuickPlace does much of the messaging already. QuickPlace talks to AIM and other instant messaging protocols, although it's early days so far.

Reeves said Notes 6.0 (or it could be 5.5 - the name hasn't been finalised, although the feature set has) should ship in mid 2001. QuickPlace and SameTime got recent refreshes, and Domino will get wireless capabilities in the next quarter.

You can judge how successfully the p2p lobby has blurred the difference between data and messaging. From our first take, Groove looks much stronger at the latter than the former, and to be fair doesn't really claim to replace anyone's database. Deservedly, it should prove a hit. But anyone who seriously wants to replace databases or document repositories with the fragmented, duplicated lunacy of a Napster model ought to take a long, cold shower.

It's good to keep an open mind - as the saying goes - but not so open your brain falls out. ®

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