Kontiki Offers Software Tools To Build Peer-To-Peer Ship

After launching its peer-to-peer content distribution service four months ago, Kontiki Inc. is sailing into new business waters with a product that lets business clients build it themselves.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based Kontiki recently unveiled its Delivery Management System, a toolbox of peer-to-peer software that lets customers publish, secure, deliver and monitor digital information. It will start shipping next quarter.

Since it debuted in December, Kontiki has drawn in 20 major companies as customers and knit together a peering network with 110,000 computers. Kontiki has managed that system up until now, but the company has started to offer software tools that allow clients to set up their own internal peering networks.

While it uses similar peering technology as Napster Inc.'s infamous music file sharing service, Kontiki executives are quick to distance themselves from that association, pointing out their products are aimed at legitimate — and more secure — content distribution for enterprise clients. Its target market is not the teenage Web pirate, but rather industries that have adopted customer-relationship management systems for public Internet sites. That includes financial institutions, media, entertainment and technology companies.

Kontiki's peer-to-peer content distribution effectively turns each registered user's computer into a file server.

Content from one computer can be accessed from a nearby computer, therefore cutting down on the data traffic jams during peak usage times and overloaded central servers. At the same time, security codes embedded in the content prevent it from being tapped by an unregistered computer or hijacked in transit.

"You don't want to ship everything across the country if locally there are copies of it," said Mark Szelenyi, Kontiki director of enterprise marketing. "The same thing is within your enterprise — you don't necessarily want to ship it from one central point if you are within an enterprise, especially if you are at a remote office. You want to take advantage of the topological closeness of machines within an office or within a building."

The new delivery management system consists of a four part toolbox comprising: Network Publisher, which encodes content for network delivery; Network Protector, which provides security for the all types of content, be it entertainment or business files; Network Connector, which ties in the peer-to-peer network into existing systems for interoperability; and Network Manager, which lets information technology managers set the rules for how content is delivered and how network traffic loads are managed.

"It's a good transitory step, too, because it allows us to do pilots with people," said Wade Hennessey, Kontiki's chief technology officer and vice president of engineering. "They don't have to deploy any hardware or software initially, and they can validate that this really does work for them."

Kontiki's primary selling point is the peer-to-peer scheme that makes networks much more efficient in their use of bandwidth by shifting traffic away from the central congestion points. It's a strategy Kontiki calls "bandwidth harvesting."

"That's one problem with current delivery mechanisms in general is they are all based on just pure user demand driven delivery — in other words a user goes to their machine and whatever time it is they read their mail and click on links, and their behavior is all around what time they get to work," Szelenyi said. "There are these huge floods of bandwidth demand on the network and no forward-looking infrastructure to realize a lot of this stuff should have been delivered like a package gets delivered to you."

With much of the industry fixated now on digital content security, it isn't surprising Kontiki's system adds more controls that allow information technology managers to better oversee how and where content is distributed. To answer that fear, Kontiki has unveiled its XML Delivery Security technology.

Registered computer nodes communicate via the standardized Extensible Markup Language, and every node has an identification code key. Whenever one node talks another, the destination computer's key is used to encrypt the content sent to it, so only that node can decrypt it.

Also, the sending computer in effect signs the information so the receiving computer can verify that it really was sent from that computer. That way, another computer cannot be disguised to look like the sending computer.

"So there is no spoofing of other nodes in the network," Szelenyi said. "These are just basic mechanisms for guaranteeing the file you get is the file that you actually asked for — it hasn't been corrupted or altered."