sites to allow interaction between people on the outside of the corporate network and people on the inside.

P2P in Public

This, obviously, is not a function related only to the corporate world. Groove thinks its product could help state and local government agencies as those agencies work with other agencies or with constituents, businesses or individuals, Mahon said.

Groove could also help with project management and collaboration between multiple government agencies.

"The thing about why peer-to-peer might grease the skids is really the fact the end users dont need to ask permission; thats really the key here," he explained, noting that government agencies business processes set up to shepherd a project or a product through various stages of approval cant cover everything.

"There are a lot of good systems to manage processes; theyre usually a back-end system sitting on a server," he said. "But what if the interaction isnt exactly addressed by the process? Maybe were in that process, but some new thing has come up."

The old way of handling that is to make telephone calls; maybe send out a flurry of e-mails, faxes or overnight letters to communicate about the new wrinkle.

The new way to handle such a situation, he predicted, is a product such as Groove, which allows groups of people to create a shared space on their PCs to instantaneously share and co-edit documents, images and other files on a realtime basis. Once any member of a group makes a change to a file, that change instantly occurs in everybody elses copy of that document.

Bob Knighten, Intels peer-to-peer evangelist, sees the potential of P2P in the public sector because most of the things that people think of as benefits for businesses apply equally well to government entities, he said. The ability to collaborate better and the ability to reduce costs by improving the efficiency of existing computing infrastructure are perfect examples.

"The question of whether there are particular things where it would be interesting for government in other ways is more curious," he said. "What about schools? What about legislatures? There are ideas there. I dont know of anybody whos doing anything specifically in those arenas yet, but its something Ive thought about."

Knighten said that a demonstration at an Intel Developers Forum involved P2P file sharing between handheld devices. The company is now developing this application for physicians so that doctors can consult about patients without having to meet face to face.

He said the technology could be adapted to a state legislature, which would free legislators from having to be on the floor to cast votes. This, of course, would require changes to legislative rules, but the possibility is there.

Knighten said large agencies could easily use P2P to handle serious computational tasks.

"It depends very specifically on the type of agency," he said. "All states have an agency analogous to the EPA. One of the things that those agencies do is develop models of how pollution moves across the state or how pollution is affected by geographical features. Those are very computationally intensive models. Very few states have the resources to have big supercomputers to perform these things, but they have a multitude of small computers which have spare cycles."

Combining the power of smaller computers using P2P technology could, therefore, be a viable alternative.

However, Knighten warned that it might not be easy to get P2P technology in place in government. "There are a lot of issues with regard to different agencies having different priorities, which makes life more complicated in a state government than it does in a big corporation. This is one of the things thats going to be a challenge for moving this kind of stuff into states."