P2P in B2B: Getting Past the "N" Word

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Control Freaks
Despite the upgrades, name changes, and shift in venue into the enterprise, P2P techniques continue to suffer one lingering Napster legacy—the impression that these technologies are less secure than server-based, centralized systems. In order to fight P2P's reputation for making content available to anyone and everyone, many of the distributed delivery and content network companies are downright obsessive about emphasizing control. Hey, what sales rep wants her goofy training videos showing up on (gasp) Kazaa?

Kontiki pushes hard its encryption of all content and control messages. "On the desktop, there is both access control and implementation of digital rights," says Szelenyi. "A publisher can apply a user name and password or assign content to a group or put rights to limit the number of times it can be used or forwarded."

Likewise, Bandwiz leads with its content control mechanisms, but Leila Dillon, director of marketing also points out how P2P adds to content distribution a new level of monitoring—"who got it when; who looked at it; how long they looked at it." P2P gives publishers a feedback loop they never had before. "They never know what value the content is bringing to individuals," says Sapir. Peer networking and its higher degree of resource and data sharing lets the distributor see how content is consumed on the desktop. "The monitoring of content is tremendous ROI," Sapir argues.

Monitoring content usage is precisely what CCH Information's Savory likes about peer-to-peer sharing of his ABG feeds with Deloitte because it opens up new marketing opportunities. It lets him demonstrate to clients how valuable ABG content is to their organization, albeit with the potential risk of seeing how worthless other content may be. "It becomes possible to meter who is looking at it and when, and the results of that statistical exactitude can be somewhat surprising and a little disappointing," says Savory.

Regardless, using P2P to integrate his content with accountancy firms like Deloitte almost assures ABG that its content will be used by the client more often overall. It also allows ABG to benefit from Deloitte's massive customer base because Deloitte can turn around and offer the same ABG feed to its customers. "It suggests some commercial opportunities we hadn't thought of," says Savory. "Our competitors [Thomson, Reed-Elsevier] spend a fortune trying to market their Web presence, however, our biggest customers are already out there. The opportunity with P2P networking is—why spend our bucks to break into the market when the accountancy firms are already there? We can use customers like Deloitte to franchise our content out in extranets to their customers."

Indeed, the emergence of P2P in the enterprise seems to have unleashed a wave of creative thinking about its uses that may even rival the way Napster and Gnutella rocked our thinking about how content could be distributed. From workplace efficiencies to reduced IT costs, greater content monitoring to new marketing techniques, the P2P crowd has found myriad ways of trading P2P's old grunge wear for a trendy business suit. Which is not to say that everyone buys the new look. While a recent Gartner report on grid delivery praised the advantages of P2P in business, it also warned that security concerns remain for some companies, especially when sensitive content is downloaded to individual PCs. P2P remains in early adopter phase, Gartner says, and so limited trials for security and scalability are the best approach.

For proponents of P2P, however, resistance is futile and decentralization of content is inevitable. Whatever the ancillary benefits of peer-to-peer networking, it all comes down to two simple, compelling arguments, says Neiman. "If you leave content distributed, the cost is distributed and the information is more current. If you have information that is never going to change, then use the old model."

Companies Featured in This Article

ABG Professional Information www.abgweb.com
Bandwiz, Inc. www.bandwiz.com
Deloitte & Touche www.deloitte.com
InView Software www.inviewsoftware.com
Kontiki www.kontiki.com
NextPage Inc. www.nextpage.com http://fedgov.nextpage.com
Palm, Inc. www.palm.com

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