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P2P start-up finds market groove

Groove Networks, the peer-to-peer company headed by Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie, hits the market with the first full release of its software and an early list of blue-chip customers.

Groove Networks, the peer-to-peer company headed by Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie, hit the market Monday with the first full release of its software and an early list of blue-chip customers.

The company, which revealed itself at the height of last year's Napster-driven peer-to-peer furor, creates software that allows people to share files stored on their personal computers and work together on projects.

Where file-swapping service Napster and its rivals have used this peer-to-peer technology largely for trading music or videos, Groove foresees companies using it as an advanced version of Lotus Notes' communications and corporate collaboration features.

At least a few companies agree: Groove announced Monday that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, defense contractor Raytheon and even the Department of Defense have signed licenses for the technology's use.

The announcement, though relatively small by corporate software standards, shows that peer-to-peer computing is likely to have a practical--if somewhat less sexy--life beyond the fight between Napster and the record industry.

"People work together The P2P mythin a peer-to-peer fashion all the time," Ozzie said. "The closer software models show humans actually work together, the better chances it has of succeeding."

But whether other new companies are able to replicate Groove's early success is still questionable.

Groove has the highest profile of many start-ups working on corporate peer-to-peer applications, which aim to take advantage of individual personal computers' power. Groove has been working on its technology for three years, but most of these new companies were created in the wake of last year's peer-to-peer hype.

Large companies have recently begun to lend their talent to the efforts, however.

Sun Microsystems has staked out a large role in this development process through its new "Jxta" project, with which it hopes to create a standard development platform for peer-to-peer applications. Executives have said they will use this open-source effort as a springboard for Sun's own applications, a drive some have said is aimed at undermining Microsoft's .Net Web-based strategy.

With its attempt to cater to the business mainstream, Groove has said it would support .Net, as well as more familiar Microsoft applications such as Office and NetMeeting.