With the developments of Web services and peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies, enterprises have an opportunity to combine those technologies to increase efficiencies, suggests new research from Gartner.

The collaboration will be centered around the "service station," which leverages the new technologies. The service station establishes a model for accessing data through Web services and P2P computing.

"A critical factor is that an organization's documents usually exist throughout the organization rather than on centralized servers," says Daryl Plummer, a Gartner Inc. vice president and research director. "The advantage of the service station concept is that it allows data captured in files on desktop PCs to be available throughout an enterprise or to anyone who subscribes as a user to the files, making individual files a corporate resource."

Service station is defined as a PC or network appliance that is used to publish individual files and data as Web services in a P2P architecture. Although the service station is derived from concepts that have been available for years, the advent of Web services and the interest in P2P models have made the service station a timely concept for both strategic and opportunistic.

"The service station will do for corporate file sharing what Napster did for music – it will make it easy to get what you want when you want it," says Plummer.

An organization would apply a service station for projects in which many people contribute to the final output, such as reporting company-wide budget spending or combining slides for a presentation. With each project, individual documents would need to be created, updated and maintained to produce the final document. A service station would provide the means to do that by subscribing to each of the individual documents to produce the finished product, complete with all changes and updates made to the individual files throughout the process.

Another advantage of the service station concept would be to use it across company boundaries. However, since files are made accessible as a service, there is always an available connection to access the data, thus opening the door to spoofing, unauthorized access and possible denial of service attacks.

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