Intel hops on the file-sharing train

Intel sampled Napster and came away singing a new tune: Peer-to-peer networking rocks

Napster, Gnutella, Freenet -- and Intel?

The old-guard chip giant later this month will attempt to prove it can get down with the baddest Net players when it announces a plan to ignite development of more peer-to-peer networking for businesses and consumers. Building on the stir caused by the peer-to-peer services such as Napster, which allows users to share music files over the Internet, Intel will detail an initiative to encourage the use of the technology in many other applications, including the sharing of family videos, corporate documents and even network resources.

Think of it as Napster gone corporate.

Intel is unlikely to offer its own stand-alone peer-to-peer networking technology. Instead, the chip maker will likely license the technology to software vendors or make it available to developers as open source code.

Pat Gelsinger, Intel's chief technology officer, will announce the initiative during Intel's fall Intel Developer Forum being held 22 to 24 August.

Intel's peer-to-peer networking strategy, at its most basic level, calls for the creation of a network Gelsinger calls a Virtual Private Web. This Web can consist of employees at a company, family members, a group of friends or anyone with common interests or goals. Users in this private network would be able to share spare systems resources, such as storage, or use the system to exchange files. Gelsinger may add ideas for other uses of the technology during his speech.

"The idea is that we've been, over the past five years, building out network infrastructure in a dramatic way," Gelsinger said. "The spark of this is Napster... but underneath it is the network."

Intel will encourage businesses and consumers to use the network in new ways. "Now applications [using peer-to-peer] can grow more rapidly, because you don't have to build out server infrastructure," he said.

Gelsinger, during his keynote, will expand on where Intel sees peer-to-peer headed, and show several demonstrations of it in use.

At the same time he will issue a call-to-arms for the industry, telling developers to take this trend by the horns before it overtakes them.

For corporate use, those examples will include a distributed file-sharing application as well as distributed computing applications that can make use of spare processing power found across a network.

When it comes to consumers, Intel expects friends and families to set up Virtual Private Webs in order to, among other things, stay in communication and to share files. These files could be just about anything from pictures to vacation videos.

Gelsinger is expected to introduce a number of software tools and partnerships aimed at getting peer-to-peer networking technology off the ground. It's also anticipated that Intel will make announcements concerning standardisation and security of the technology. Gelsinger may call for creation of a standards body during his IDF talk.

Still, there will be a lot of work to be done before peer-to-peer becomes pervasive in everyday life, Gelsinger said.

The technology will develop in much the same way the Web did. With Mosaic, the first popular Web browser, came the need for standards for transfer of data (HTTP) and security (SSL). To speed development of peer-to-peer, Gelsinger said, Intel will work with the open source community. It is not clear yet, however, whether it will release all or parts of the peer-to-peer networking technology to open source.

However, if Intel were to go the open route, open sourced peer-to-peer technology would be a likely compliment to open source Linux-based servers, which are found in an increasing number of corporate networks.

At its autumn developer forum, Intel also plans to update hardware and software developers with its latest processor road maps.

Intel will discuss progress on its Itanium, and reveal new details on its Pentium 4 and Timna chips as well as launch new products based on Universal Serial Bus 2.0.

But the majority of the news, some 16 announcements, coming from the developer conference will be about software, a marked departure from forums past. That is, unless Intel announces a brand new chip, which is unlikely to happen.

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