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Peer-to-Peer Revolutionises 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.

Content Linking

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.

Content Aggregating

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 the enterprise.

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 select customers.

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 Network.

NextPage RapidApps

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.



In this month's edition of Document Management Update:

Lotus unveils Raven Discovery Server. more>>
Deutsche Bank chooses IBM WebSphere Translation Server. more>>
Zurich deploys Autonomy in worldwide risk engineering extranet. more>>
Feature: The need for content management. more>>
eRooms launches eRooms 5.0 - Richard Croasdale finds out how the company plans to differentiate collaboration tool from Microsoft rival. more>>
Documentum launches 4i Portal content edition. more>>





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