With client-server based groupware there is often a lengthy delay before a central administrator sets up a new user to join a group, making teams based on these products far less agile. And anyone outside the corporate firewall is unlikely to be able to join — effectively ruling out external experts. And Web-based collaboration tools don’t allow for group members to access documents and other group resources while offline, and are far too insecure for confidential data to used, he said.
P2P groupware elegantly sidesteps these issues — Groove (which was architected by Lotus Notes author, Ray Ozzie), for example, works on a member-get-member basis. Anyone in a particular project group with the right privileges can invite new members to join instantly. And Groove traffic can pass through firewalls, so external members can participate from anywhere in the world without connectivity problems. Since documents are stored locally, in each user’s Groovespace, team members can work offline whenever necessary.
A perceived lack of security may be part of the reason why swarming has only taken off slowly, but it turns out to be quite false, according to Paul Ostin, managing consultant for Messaging at EDS (which also carries out P2P-based swarming using Groove).
“If we didn’t have a security model for P2P, we couldn’t consider it as an option, but Groove is the most secure model we have ever seen,” he said. In fact the platform uses 192-bit encryption (approved by the US government) to encode all data, making the environment very secure.
EDS uses P2P based swarming in at least twelve countries, enabling customers to participate in project management jobs. “The improvement in customer satisfaction is unquestionable,” said Ostin. “We move our projects along much faster, our approval cycles are much shorter and we avoid the hassle of having to send new versions of documents by email. With a P2P system like Groove, everyone always has the latest version of each document to carry around with them, and we save on bandwidth because only changes to files are communicated.”
P2P based swarming has already been adopted by the US Army in Afghanistan, resulting in a reduction in the time needed to plan military operations from ten days to two hours. It’s adoption by corporate America has been slow, but the experiences of HP and EDS show the technology is far too useful to be left to teenagers looking for the latest, free Linkin Park song. Expect to hear more about peer to peer networking in the business environment in the months to come.