Intel backs peer-to-peer concept

"There is a new wave of computing that will invade the business environment. The concept is putting many computers together to do things that couldn't be done before," Barrett said in a keynote address at the first day of the Intel Developer Forum this week.

By bringing together computers from around the world, companies will increase the speed of product innovation, Barrett said.

The CEO brought on stage Andrew Grimshaw, the founder of Applied MetaComputing, a company that is working on peer-to-peer business solutions. Grimshaw discussed an Applied Meta Computing project using peer-to-peer networking in an industrial setting to model airflow over an aircraft for Boeing, in Seattle.

"The basic idea is that it is a large numeric problem to solve, and so we scattered it over multiple computer centers all working together and solved the problem," said Grimshaw.

The challenge, according to Barrett and Grimshaw, is to give users working on a single problem transparent access to data and parallel execution with complete data integrity and security.

Barrett said that while Napster is the most obvious example of peer-to-peer, he sees the day when "15,000 engineers doing integrated circuit design share resources in a cooperative fashion to compute and share capacity," said Barrett.

Barrett said that peer-to-peer networking "will have a material impact on our industry" and that later in the week Intel will lay out its peer-to-peer initiatives.

Using the example of peer to peer, Barrett said it was not dissimilar to what IT departments face now in getting multiple groups scattered around the country or the world to work together, He cited challenges in scalability, fault tolerance, legacy support, multiple languages, heterogeneity of operating systems, and hardware.

One forum attendee in the keynote audience said Intel, and even Napster, were relative latecomers the peer-to-peer computing space.

"The industry has been doing peer-to-peer computing for years," said Curtis Stevens, a consulting engineer for software company Phoenix Technologies. "Just look at Seti.org, where they allow people to download information on their audio analysis and participate in the research. It's all peer-to-peer and it all works on spare processor cycles."

Richard Fant, a technical staff member for software research and development with Intel competitor Advanced Micro Devices, sees peer-to-peer computing as something "very similar to a standard client/server relationship, but more comprehensive." Fant said AMD has peer-to-peer computing plans of its own in the works.

The discussion was brought back to current issues when Barrett reminded the audience of 3,000 developers that the internet was developed in a modular fashion with disparate hardware, software, and network designs but at the same time driven by collective efforts. He ended his talk with a plea to the developers and the industry at large for more and closer cooperation.

"Cooperate with competitors to find standards; once standards are set, then compete," Barrett advised.

Additionally, Barrett said the combination of wired and wireless technology will be key to doing business over the internet in the future.

It is Intel's mission to provide the connectivity between the two technologies. "Wired and wireless technology will not compete, but will work together," Barrett said.

Barrett addressed his audience of developers and journalists by saying that "nobody can build the internet alone, we need to do it together." However, he went on to say that Intel can build a complete internet infrastructure in 48 hours.

Barrett also had a message for customers. "The challenge for companies who want to become 100-percent e-business companies is to connect all the areas of the business into one e-business computing environment."

For example, companies need to combine the interaction with their direct and indirect suppliers with their direct and indirect customers into the same infrastructure. Needless to say, Intel will be there to provide that connectivity, he said.

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Ephraim Schwartz

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