Communications of the Association for Information Systems


Peer-to-peer (P2P) gurus suggest that inexpensive computing power, bandwidth, and storage will enable radically new enterprise forms that are driven by the distribution of interactive computing power more or less equally through the enterprise. Based on the capabilities of the Internet (as opposed to the web), which forms a vast network of computers that can be linked in many different ways, P2P has been called "a third age in Internet time" and "the next logical evolution of the Internet". While such predictions may be somewhat hyper-optimistic, the speed with which this technology already spread from underground to mainstream is remarkable. Whether they like it or not, companies will soon need to determine how they are going to deal with P2P, just as they did with other major technology shifts (e.g., PCs, e-commerce). This paper is designed to help researchers and managers understand the challenges P2P technology poses for CIOs and organizations. It first gives an overview of these technologies, including their current status, probable applications and the opportunities and challenges involved in using them. Then, it discusses the strategic potential of P2P for organizations and explores some of the areas in which P2P could have a significant impact on how business and IT functions work. It concludes with some advice to CIOs about how to begin integrating P2P into their organization and some suggestions for researching the impacts of this technology on business.