GCN Insider | Sun no longer dreams of Jini

TRENDS & TECHNOLOGIES that affect the way government does IT

JILTED: New Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz hinted the company will drop projects such as Jini.

As everyone must have heard by now, Scott McNealy stepped down from the CEO post at Sun Microsystems Inc. following another quarterly loss, despite signs of a gradual turnaround at Sun.

During a conference call, successor CEO Jonathan Schwartz hinted that Sun would look at jettisoning some of the activities that were dragging down the company. We suspect that one of the projects slated for freedom is the Jini distributed computing technology.

Remember Jini? Former Sun chief scientist and co-founder Bill Joy introduced Jini in 1998 as an architecture for portable devices, such as printers and embedded devices, to communicate with each other over a network. Widely hyped at the time, it never found a niche.

Last month, Sun engineer Jim Hurley announced via e-mail that Sun plans to offer Jini to the Apache Software Foundation. Although Hurley and other Sun engineers expressed interest in continuing to work with Jini (and noted that Sun continued to offer it commercially), further development would be left in the hands of the open-source community.

The timing was peculiar. The technology has generated some recent interest as a nimble messaging alternative for Web services. At the Semantic Interoperability for E-Government Conference held in February, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sam Chance gave a presentation on how Jini could be used in a services-oriented architecture. At the time, Chance was working at the National Security Agency, where he managed two pilots using Jini in an SOA platform that allowed analysts to find resources elsewhere in the network. (He has since joined Scientific Research Corp.)

'Jini is, in my opinion, a superior solution for SOAs,' Chance e-mailed GCN later. 'It doesn't have the overhead of the Web services collection of protocols and works particularly well with services of intermittent connectivity.'

While Sun tightens its financial belt, Jini may be better suited to Apache anyhow in the long run. It stands to be shaped by a wider community.

'Moving to Apache means we have a chance to grow the number of contributors and drive things forward more rapidly using a well-tested set of processes,' said Dan Creswell, one of the volunteer developers working on Jini. 'The move will allow us to address some of the barriers to growth we've been wrestling with for some time.'

About the Authors

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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