Web Serving -- P2P Style -- With BadBlue

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Dec 30, 2003

BadBlue: Web server based on a peer-to-peer networking architecture Enterprises looking for a Web server well suited for a peer-to-peer environment need look no further than BadBlue. The lightweight application offers fast deployment and a user friendly search network, but brings with it a number of disadvantages inherent to P2P.

When the original release of BadBlue hit the market in 2000, peer-to-peer (P2P) networking was on the ascent, embodied by the spirit of Napster and Gnutella. At the time, P2P proponents argued that the technology could be useful for activities other than mass copyright infringement. And it's true that wide and shallowly distributed networks could provide utility in enterprise environments, in parallel with conventional, centralized narrow and deep topologies. However, public relations for P2P technology have not improved much since 2000, especially in light of the recording industry's wave of lawsuits against users.

BadBlue tried from the start to define a niche outside of anonymous, masked file sharing, to bring the power of a distributed network to "legitimate" environments. BadBlue is essentially a hybrid between a Web server and peer-to-peer file sharing that lets users build an ad-hoc network among BadBlue servers, thus the P2P angle. Access to the network is handled entirely through a Web browser and mediated by BadBlue's built-in Web server. As a Web server, it supports scripting languages, such as PHP, making BadBlue's behavior extendable.

One of BadBlue's attractive features is its lightweight nature. The download is under 500 KB, and the whole ball of string squeezes into less than 1 MB when installed. The installer is simple and straightforward, and organizations using BadBlue can be up and sharing files in a matter of minutes.

Since its original release, a number of enhancements have been added to BadBlue's sharing. Office documents can be "published" on the shared network, along with photo albums. Users can perform full-text searches on popular document formats. LiveSQL allows dynamic database data to be published on the BadBlue network. All of these additions make a BadBlue-based network more useful.

This ease-of-use, though, has a dark flip side. Security is always a major concern when sharing data, and BadBlue's latest features seem to have the enterprise in mind. BadBlue now has security controls -- user accounts that limit access to specified folders and data, and bandwidth throttling and download limits to help thwart abuse.

But -- and there's always a but -- all of this may prove cold comfort in the enterprise environment. While BadBlue has made an admirable effort to cover its security bases, the very nature of P2P architecture is also its Achilles' heel. By distributing the network shallow and wide, workstations become servers, and the owners of those workstations thus take on responsibility for security -- a delegation likely to make the spine of any network administrator tingle .

BadBlue's optimal market is the home or small business interested in casual sharing. It's ease-of-use is laudable, and the Web-based search interface has been much improved since its original release. Dynamic DNS support enables users without static IP addresses to join a BadBlue network. The ability to easily publish Office documents and live databases to the network could indeed be very useful in a small business. But in a large, enterprise workplace, it's difficult to recommend taking the risk that BadBlue brings with it -- not because of any fault particular to BadBlue, but because of the nature of P2P file sharing itself. Simply put, the more links in the P2P chain, the greater the exposure to risk.

Pros: Lightweight application; Fast deployment; User friendly search network
Cons: File sharing's bad reputation for abuse; Low "must have" factor; Security concerns, particularly for enterprise-class deployments

Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 12/29/2003
Original Review Version: 2.44

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