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EDJX 2022 Predictions: P2P is Back

vmblog predictions 2022 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2022.  Read them in this 14th annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

P2P is Back

By James Thomason, CTO and Co-founder, EDJX

There is a technology on the horizon, back from the past, that is transformational, and  it is not getting the attention it deserves. Do you remember P2P? 

Turn the time machine back to the 1990's and think of Napster and recall the earliest days of P2P. Shawn Fanning invented Napster when he was a college student. His idea was to provide a way for everyone's PCs to be able to speak to one another and utilize a universal, virtual directory for sharing music.  Napster was a peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol, enabling each independent computer to coordinate with millions of others around the world in the nascent cloud.

What came next was a proliferation of  P2P file sharing apps and protocols like KazAa, Gnutella, and Freenet. This led to serious academic research in P2P network architectures, culminating in the development of protocols like Pastry and Chord, which each leveraged Distributed Hash Tables (DHTs). 

As you might remember after a proliferation of lawsuits from irked rock stars (and others) interest in P2P and its further development lost momentum - right up until Bitcoin came on the scene. This brings us to today and the  moment in which DHTs are now a critical part of modern decentralized protocols like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

The Internet is a decentralized warehouse of whatever- products and services, knowledge and opinions. The fact that most of our data and computing ended up being centralized on Big Tech's cloud platforms is not supposed to be how it played out.  I think of the evolution of the Internet occurring in four distinct phases. The First Internet (circa 1998) was about connecting computers together over a global network. The Second Internet, bringing people and businesses online, supporting digital commerce. The Third Internet, the one we're still in now, is all about our phones (a misnomer to be sure ) or mobile computing.

The scale challenges created by the sudden demand for smartphones and their apps created intense economic pressure to centralize. Housing millions of similar servers in gigantic data centers is more economically efficient and works for our mobile apps. 

But, here comes the Fourth Internet, which brings with it the ability to connect machines to other machines. This is a time where human beings are surrounded by millions of connected sensors, autonomous robots, and smart vehicles that work together to improve our quality of life. How will these different devices share and process data, and how will developers write apps that run everywhere?

Building apps for the Fourth Internet presents some unique challenges with the growth of data and the latency between edge devices and the cloud. Apps are moving away from abstract uses like gaming, web browsing, and social media, and into the real world where apps will drive our cars, operate heavy machinery, augment our senses, and make decisions in real time. 

In other words, speed matters in the Fourth Internet. Connecting things, sharing data, making decisions - these all have to happen dynamically, between different devices, using different computers, in real time, everywhere. It's here that P2P will be truly transformative.

For engineers and developers, building distributed systems is extremely complex, and P2P systems are one of the toughest of all. Emerging startups are advancing the state of the art with open source projects including libp2p and IPFS, making it easier for developers to build P2P apps. My own startup EDJX (shameless plug) used libp2p to jumpstart the development of our P2P serverless edge computing platform, which helps developers build Web3 and IoT apps.

If you thought P2P was a thing of the past, look around and think again. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Thomason 

James Thomason is the CTO and co-founder of EDJX, the intelligent edge computing platform for real-time IoT, M2M, and mobile apps. His diverse technology expertise includes distributed systems, large-scale infrastructures, and IoT. Previously, James was the CTO of Dell Cloud Marketplace and Dell Active System Manager. A Silicon Valley entrepreneur for over 20 years, James has served in technical, product, and executive leadership roles at over a dozen startups.

Published Monday, January 10, 2022 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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