Intel locks up security code for P2P

As part of an effort to promote peer-to-peer technology, the chip giant unveils security software code that other companies can use when developing applications.

3 min read
Demonstrating progress in its peer-to-peer efforts, Intel Wednesday unveiled security software code that other companies can use when developing peer-to-peer applications.

Dubbed the Peer-to-Peer Trusted Library, the release includes full API (application programming interface) documentation and provides support for peer authentication, secure storage, encryption and digital signatures. Intel has made the API freely available to developers online.

Intel says it released the code to spur innovation in the peer-to-peer security market.

"This is one example, a starting point, that people can use," said Bob Knighten, Intel?s "peer-to-peer evangelist. "Security I think is one of the pervasive issues that peer-to-peer has to address."

Promoting peer-to-peer technology makes sense for the world's biggest chipmaker. Peer-to-peer networking, and its close cousin distributed computing, advocate using the full power of a computer's processor. Intel supplies the processors for the majority of the world's PCs. Whereas most companies today run complex simulations on the power of mainframe computers, distributed computing proposes using the untapped power of thousands of regular computers weaved together with software.

Companies adopting this method would have a much greater incentive to upgrade computers to faster processors--a move that would clearly benefit Intel. "Anything that causes people to use their computer more makes them buy up," said S. Kea Grilley, Intel's director of platform marketing. "We think P2P itself will cause people to use their computer for more and different stuff."

The release comes as part of Intel?s larger efforts in peer-to-peer technology. While the company has been using this technology internally since the early 1990s, they announced last August plans to form a peer-to-peer working group whose charter would be to draft industry standards.

To date this group has had just one meeting, which was mired in controversy when smaller companies and independent developers decried the organization's membership fees, and Intel?s suggestion that the group be organized in a hierarchical structure.

Intel executives said they have learned their lesson and are approaching the group differently this time. On Thursday, the 22-member coalition will elect steering committee members. The group will also take submissions for standardization suggestions, and plans to meet on a quarterly basis.

These concrete steps aim to eliminate additional criticism that the group has moved far too slowly compared to the pace of technology. Despite these efforts however, criticism still lingered at the demo showcase.

"As a start up company, we?re not going to follow Intel in its slow ways," said Octavio Herrera, the vice-president of OnSystems. "The bottom line is we have to generate revenue. In general there?s not a lot to be gained by a consortium."

Not everyone felt the same, however. Entropia CEO Jim Madsen, whose company is a member of Intel?s peer-to-peer working group, believes accomplishments have been made. "I think one of the good things that comes out of this is helping people understand what are the different categories that fall under P2P, and raising awareness," said Madsen.

Experts in the peer-to-peer industry agree that standards will do nothing but speed up the use and wide-scale acceptance of this technology.

"It prevents the old 'reinventing the wheel' factor," said Andy Oram, editor at O?Reilly Associates.