the New Digital Economy
Today, peer-to-peer (P2P) technology stands to revolutionise
the new digital economy, impacting us all in ways that we have only recently
begun to appreciate. Like most emerging technologies, what is once seen
as a threat later emerges as an opportunity. While lawyers were busy filing
suit against Napsters peer-to-peer offering, the worlds largest law firm,
Baker & McKenzie was implementing NextPages peer-to-peer technology
to connect 2,800 attorneys together. Instead of swapping MP3 files, lawyers
will now be able to locate relevant content from their 61 law offices
spread throughout the world.
Moreover, e-businesses will spend billions of dollars over the next couple
of years on Internet initiatives targeted at enhancing all aspects of
relationships between partners, suppliers, customers and employees. To
date, businesses have started to streamline e-commerce transactions, however,
the greater business opportunity lies in the exchange of expertise, ideas
and information between companies. The majority of this expertise is buried
in documents, spreadsheets, e-mail, databases and legacy systems all over
corporate intranets and the Internet.
These companies are looking for a solution that solves these two problems:
How to give users access to the content they need without having to centralise
and maintain that content, and
How to deliver critical content from outside the companyfrom partners,
suppliers, customers, and so onin a format thats current and accessible.
For e-businesses, its taken a few years to arrive at these two needs.
But, with the development of technology, the peer-to-peer market is ready
to overcome these challenges.
In the days before the Internet, document management was done with software
programs and file systems. If you wanted to get a document or connect
to a file system, you had to do so by directly connecting to the program
you needed. You had to have the right applications to create, view or
access documents. You had to know where something was located to access
it. For example, you needed a word processing program to view a word processing
file. You needed a presentation file to view a presentation slide or file.
In the beginning days of computer technology, this method was fine. Individuals
were creating the first stored computer files. As individual software
applications became more prevalent, individuals and corporations using
applications to create and store more and more files. Especially in information-intensive
professions, like accounting, tax, legal, insurance and banking, the ability
to save information and refer to it later was critical.
With the advent of the Internet, people could begin to access these files
in a more streamlined manner, collecting multiple Web files, word processing
files, etc. As more technology developed to take advantage of the Web
environment, companies started to aggregate information onto one server
and began providing access to this information. This centralisation of
content allowed many users to access larger amounts of content. Management
of thousands of files was easier, because these files were stored in a
central location. Software could index the information, so searches could
be conducted across all of the information, helping users find what they
needed faster and easier than before.
However, centralising information was difficult to scale to very large
quantities of information multi-gigabytes of content because search returns
become slow at that level and storage capacities are limited. In addition,
corporations assigned the information technology (IT) departments to set
up and maintain these centralised repositories of information. By doing
this, departments lost control of their content. Politically, these departments
did not want to give up control to someone else to manage their information.
Plus, downloading gigabytes of documents to a central server was cumbersome.
When an update needed to be made, these departments sent the updates to
the IT department. Now the IT department had to update the information.
As more and more departments were placed on the system, these departments
created a bigger and bigger job for the IT department.
As these technologies advanced, corporations also wanted to add external
content to their internal collections. For example, an accountant relies
on information from inside the company, like best practices information,
and company policies and regulations, but the accountant also uses commercially
published information. To access that information, the accountant had
to log onto the internal system, perform a query and view the results,
then log onto the commercial Web site or CD to retrieve relevant information
from outside sources. This was a cumbersome task for individuals to quickly
find the business-critical they needed to make important decisions.
Therefore, corporations wanted to download these externally published
systems onto their central content stores. Some publishers have done this,
but the publisher loses control of the content they provide when this
occurs. Once the information is sent to the central server, the publisher
cant really track who is using that information. Also, with commercial
publishers information added to the centralised information server, IT
departments had another set of updates they had to complete. When the
user viewed the information, the content was not guaranteed to be the
most recent update. Thus, users could not completely rely on the accuracy
of the information. If the content had been changed before the latest
computer update, the user would not be able to see it.
Peer-to-Peer Content Networking
NextPage, Inc. has launched the next generation of content access Peer-to-Peer
Content Networking. The NextPage NXT 3 e-Content Platform is the first
technology platform to deliver Peer-to-Peer Content Networking for e-businesses.
The technology is XML-based and creates a secure network, called a Content
Network, where users can manage, access and exchange content across distributed
servers on intranets, extranets and the Internet. The Content Network
is accessed through a Web browser and viewed as if the information existed
in a single location.
Industry analysts are beginning to follow this peer-to-peer trend and
are saying technology like NXT 3 will revolutionise how e-businesses manage
and exchange information with partners, suppliers and customers.
"Gartner believes that P2P information-sharing technology will radically
change business models and enterprise technology management approaches
since it addresses an exponentially growing demand for more and faster
information," said John Pescatore, analyst at Gartner Group. "Emerging
P2P programs are bottom-up technologies that let ad hoc communities take
advantage of rapidly decreasing communication costs to share information
without centralised co-ordination or control. P2P file sharing trades
network bandwidth for reduced time in information access, much the way
e-mail did as the Internet exploded."
NXT 3 eliminates traditional barriers of intranets, extranets and the
Internet by providing users a single point of access to information from
dispersed sources and different data types, such as XML, HTML, Microsoft
Office, Adobe PDF files and database repositories. Once these sources
are linked together in a peer-to-peer Content Network, they become a single,
virtual repository of business-critical information.
With NXT 3, content no longer needs to be pushed around the Internet or
centralised on an intranet or extranet server to be accessed. Content
can be created and maintained in its original location by its original
author. Users can search, navigate, categorise and personalise information
in their Content Network in real time.
NextPage technology is easier to scale to tens of thousands of concurrent
users and multi-gigabytes of information, because additional servers can
be added, and with those servers, additional users can be linked into
the system. Unlike many consumer peer-to-peer offerings, NXT 3 provides
security services to ensure that the content is accessed by only those
authorised to view that content. Also, user profiles can determine the
content they are allowed to see, based on their needs.
Now, with this peer-to-peer technology, users are directly connected to
exactly the content they need. And, not only can they connect with content
internal to the company, but also users can link into their Content Network
the partners, suppliers and commercial publishers. Therefore, a user can
search across the network for information and receive an integrated list
of results from files of different formats and locations.
"The traditional distinctions in delivering content to internal vs.
external audiences is becoming increasingly untenable as e-business reshapes
value chains and in many cases obliterates the
distinctions between internal and external," said Simon Hayward,
analyst at Gartner Group.
Updates are not made by the IT department, but by the owner of the content.
Therefore, the owner of the content controls the content. As soon as updates
are made, they are available to the Content Network.
The IT department is able to capitalise on its core competency: the department
helps administer and control the software and its implementation throughout
Baker & McKenzie
Baker & McKenzie, the worlds largest law firm, is implementing NextPages
peer-to-peer technology to connect its 61 offices, 2,800 attorneys and
This technology is changing the way firms such as Baker & McKenzie
access information. Attorneys in the Chicago office can connect to and
then search across content located in Hong Kong, London and New York offices,
simultaneously, as if the information resided on their desktops, eliminating
logistical and technological barriers. Attorneys can get the information
when, where and how they need it, further integrating the day-to-day operations
of Baker & McKenzies 61 offices.
NextPage technology also allows clients on the Baker & McKenzie extranet
to connect to the firms predetermined content. Access control modules
allow select clients to view the content that is applicable to their needs.
Baker & McKenzie will deploy NextPages Content Network over the next
six months in the Chicago, London, and New York offices as well as seven
other world-wide company offices. The firm plans to expand the Content
Network to its remaining 51 offices by the end of 2001.
The NXT 3 e-Content Platform
NXT 3 contains five major components that comprise the technology platform:
the Content Server, Content Syndicator, the Search Engine, Content Adapters
and Security Services.
NXTä 3 Content Server
NXT 3 Content Server delivers a scalable, reliable, open standards-based
infrastructure. The server provides a rich XML environment, personalised
content delivery, content navigation, base content management, administration,
and a comprehensive table of contents.
NXTä 3 Content Syndicator
NXT 3 Content Syndicator eliminates the barriers between the Internet,
extranet and intranet by accelerating access to distributed sources of
business critical content. LiveSyndicationä is the protocol by which
content from multiple servers is virtually connected to create an integrated
network of highly available content. This unique syndication model enables
real-time access to distributed information through a sophisticated protocol
that allows users to search all available information in the network.
NXTä 3 Content Adapters
NXT 3 Content Adapters enhance the reach of information by delivering
a secure Content Network with disparate types of data. The adapters give
users integrated access to structured and unstructured content that exists
in multiple formats such as HTML, XML, PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, database
and more. In addition, the adapters enable those who own, update, and
deliver content to maintain their ownership and deliver real-time updates
and changes to the users who are accessing the information.
NXTä 3 Search Engine
NXT 3 Search Engine enables users to quickly and easily search millions
of digital assets and find the information that is most relevant to their
request. The NXT 3 Search Engine provides a powerful search platform that
searches all content available in the network, ranks the relevance, filters
the search throughout the entire document and subdocument, and delivers
what the user requests.
NXTä 3 Security Services
NXT 3 Security Services secures business-critical content and protects
relationships with e-business partners and customers by managing e-business
security policies using access control modules, RSA data encryption, SSL,
and authentication services. The security services provide the foundation
necessary to manage and protect digital content. And the access control
and inheritance infrastructure creates a secure access medium between
the Internet, extranet, and intranet, all of which enable the secure delivery
of the right content to the right user every time.
NextPage Application Frameworkä (NAF)
NextPage Application Framework is a powerful framework for presenting
and interfacing with the NXT 3 e-Content platform. NAF is designed to
make the presentation of the e-Content Platform simple and extensible.
The framework can either be used with NextPage RapidApps to expose templates
and components for user consumption, or it can be used in conjunction
with a portal product.
NXTä 3 Extenders
NXT 3 Extenders are development tools that allow for the extension of
the NXT 3 e-Content Platform. The NXT 3 Extenders enable the platform
to be integrated with other NextPage partner applications or third-party
products. For example, other services that are fundamental to businesses
today include content management products, personalisation products, and
basic e-commerce products. With the NXT 3 Extenders, the ability to easily
tie together these types of systems becomes a simple integration process
that allows businesses to leverage all of their systems to create a Content
NextPage RapidApps is a comprehensive set of templates and components
that enable users to accelerate the deployment of the NXT 3 e-Content
Platform. RapidApps provides out-of-the-box, Web-based interfaces for
navigating, personalising, searching and retrieving relevant, highly available
content. Also, included in this powerful application are the tools necessary
to immediately create an e-business Content Network.
Peer-to-peer technologies can become market threatening or market making.
Intellectual property holders have been focused on the perceived threats
of peer-to-peer technologies while NextPage has been busily focused on
its opportunities. Peer-to-peer networks, created in companies like Baker
& McKenzie, dramatically enhance the value customers and partners
derive from their relationships and increases employee productivity, fundamentally
improving a companys bottom line.