Chch firm peers ahead to 10,000 users

A Christchurch company is touting a free peer-to-peer networking service to build a critical mass of users before launching a paid-for version.

A Christchurch company is touting a free peer-to-peer networking service to build a critical mass of users before launching a paid-for version.

VXNET, which directly connects users to each other without a server, letting them share files and instant messages, claims 2000 global users since its launch in September.

VXNET marketing manager Simon Darby (pictured) says the company would like 10,000 users before it launches a paid-for service — VXPRO — for $US30 per user per year not including ISP charges. Existing users will then be encouraged to upgrade with added features.

VXNET also plans to sell a standalone version of the service that will let companies buy the software and deploy it internally.

Darby says the technology has taken three years to develop and an equal amount of time to find the right market. It is targeted at businesses with remote or mobile workforces to which server networks don’t extend or where it is prohibitively expensive to do so.

“While it’s peer-to-peer and very much around decentralised networks, there is a significant component to our software which requires all the network users to belong to the same group.”

When VXNET is launched on a person’s desktop it looks for users in that person’s list and their IP addresses. The server captures the IP addresses and relays them to people on the network.

“With a standalone system we provide that relay server in-house. In a subscriber situation we provide that ourselves.”

As to security, Darby says safeguards are built into the relay server, the application encrypts files that are transferred, and users can share secret folders that are difficult to search for.

“We have enabled end users to manage their own security from the desktop. They can control who is on their network and remove anyone they like at any time.”

VXNET plans to enhance the instant messaging feature so that users can message cellphones, and is looking at providing interfaces with other messaging systems.

Darby says the directors of the company see its peer-to-peer technology beyond the obvious file sharing.

“The underlying technology allows you to connect two computing devices directly and we can build on top of that to take advantage of the processing power of all the computers that are connected. To be able to provide that sort of service or capability to smaller organisations where they can dynamically establish a distributed processing network at very low cost has advantages, especially in the biotechnology industry.”

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