Adesso's Tubes simplifies peer-to-peer file sharing

Adesso Systems this week released a free client application that lets users quickly and easily share and update the information they use every day, such as documents, PDF files, spreadsheets, photos and video clips.

Technically, Adesso Tubes is a simple-to-use data replication program that links with server software on an Adesso-hosted Web site. Tubes extends the core data replication technology that Adesso originally developed for the enterprise market. And the company plans to release a paid version of Tubes for enterprise users later this year. The initial version is aimed at what’s called the social-networking market of networked consumers, individually and in groups.

Tubes represents a major shift for Adesso, a shift outlined in mid-2006 by Adesso Chairman, CEO and CTO John Landry, the former CTO of Lotus Development. Originally, he said, Adesso created a distributed database architecture, spanning multivendor databases, along with development tools to quickly build a range of client database applications. Transactional data added or changed at one database was automatically copied to the other databases over the network.

But users today rely on a vast quantity of information outside of traditional databases, and this information is difficult to track and share.

“The files created by programs like Excel, Word, PDF forms and so on, are the lingua franca of what people do today,” Landry said in an interview then. “What if we linked the file system into our distributed database? The idea is that you just have distributed folders, and Adesso keeps them synchronized behind the scenes. The author can put into the folder an updated file, and everyone [with access to that folder] is using that updated version.”

Tubes is the software that does this. It’s a Windows application, based on the Microsoft .Net Framework, which users download from www.tubesnow.com to their PC. Using the Tubes Navigator panel, you create and label a “tube” that in effect connects everyone in a given group. You invite people to join the group by sending them an e-mail invitation, which they can accept or reject.

The tubes you create can be for and about anything: the soccer team you coach, family pictures, the corporate marketing department. Using an interface similar to Windows Explorer, you can drag and drop into a given tube any file from your PC desktop, including Web URLs, or from within an application like Outlook, such as e-mail or a VCard. Tubes creates a copy of the file on your hard drive, then replicates that file to the Adesso hosted server over an encrypted link. Tubes then notifies the members of the Tubes group of a new or updated file. Then it sends the new file to them, or just the changed information.

“We track on the server whatever you put in the tube, who put it in, with their designated roles, permissions and capabilities,” says Steve Chazin, Adesso's vice president of marketing. “This is tracked on a per-file basis.”

Members of the Tube group have different permissions. You can allow them to just read or view the files, or allow any number of them editing privileges. If you’re receiving files from another Tube “owner” you can get an alert showing you what the file is and how large it is, so you can decide whether to receive it or not.

“I think Tubes’ main distinctions are ease of use and automatic file synchronization,” says Don Dodge, who maintains “The Next Big Thing” blog and is director of business development for Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team. He’s been experimenting with Adesso Tubes.

“Tubes allows the user to drag and drop any file, e-mail or URL link onto a desktop Tube icon,” he says. “There’s no need to use e-mail attachments or navigate file hierarchies. Automatic file synchronization keeps everyone up to date on the latest version of the file. This allows groups of people to have a simple, lightweight tool to collaborate around any type of file.”

More elaborate collaboration or the need for more security might require more advanced tools, Dodge says, such as Microsoft Groove, which the company acquired about two years ago. Like Tubes, Groove offers a graphical interface to streamline content creation and sharing. But it also has out-of-the-box integration with other Microsoft applications, such as Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Office SharePoint Server 2007, Office InfoPath 2007 and Office Communicator.

The Tubes Website, hosted via Navisite with Adesso’s own servers and software, offers up to 2GB of storage per user. The site has been designed to scale to support millions of users, Chazin says.

He likens Tubes to instant messaging for “stuff” instead of for interactive text typing. “Tubes creates a pathway between groups of sharers,” he says. “Anything you drop into the tube goes to all of them, and vice versa. It’s a two-way community of sharing.”

The enterprise version, dubbed Tubes Pro, will integrate with Microsoft Active Directory, and add an array of features for controlling bandwidth use between sharers, managing the overall Tubes deployments, and for security. That is scheduled to be ready in mid-2007. Adesso plans a per-user monthly charge. The free version will support a variety of advertising revenue streams on the Tubes site, and through advertiser-created tubes.

Tubes is available now at no charge from www.tubesnow.com.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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