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Sun offers Jini to open-source community

Sun Microsystems Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., is hoping to move its Jini distributed computing technology to an open-source development community, according to an e-mail one member of the Sun Jini developer team posted on the Jini mailing list last week.

Last week, Jim Hurley announced via e-mail that Sun plans to propose Jini to be an open source project for the Apache Software Foundation, which would oversee its further development.

Although Hurley and other Sun engineers expressed interest in continuing to work with Jini'and noted that Sun to continue to offer it in commercial products'it appears that the company wishes to no longer host the Jini Web site nor be the sole maintainers of the code.

Then chief scientist at Sun, Bill Joy introduced Jini in 1998 as an architecture for portable devices to communicate with one another over a network. The devices could range from printers and embedded computers to software-based services. A device or service can connect to a network and announce its presence, which then can be located by clients wishing to use such a service.

Although widely hyped during its introduction, Jini hasn't gained a foothold in the enterprise computing space, although several agencies have investigated its use. The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration used Jini for building the Ocean Share prototype, which is collaboration software for browsing data across multiple repositories. The National Institute of Standards and Technology tested Jini for a laptop-based pervasive computing, and pronounced it good.

More recently, the technology has generated some interest as a nimble alternative to Web services for implementing Service Oriented Architectures.

At the Semantic Interoperability for E-Government Conference held in February, Navy Lieutenant Commander Sam Chance gave a presentation on how Jini could be used in an SOA

At the time of the presentation, Chance was detailed at the National Security Agency (he has since retired and now works for Scientific Research Corp.). There he managed two pilots using Jini in a SOA platform that could allow analysts to find resources elsewhere in the network.

'The model behind Jini presupposed fallacies of network computing,' Chance said at the presentation. He noted that networks and end-devices experience outages and disruptions, both of which Jini can easily accommodate. Chance deployed a set of Jini-based lookup directory that would allow workflows to connect with services, no matter where they were located on the network. If one service is down, or has been moved, the status is recorded by the Jini lookup service.

Sun's move has sparked much discussion in the Jini community. Some voiced concerns about Sun pulling back support for Jini, while others see the move as a chance to expand the resources for Jini beyond what Sun could provide. Sun placed the Jini software itself under an open source license last year, and now the development process will be community-based as well

And the Apache Foundation isn't exactly a graveyard for old technologies. In addition to the maintaining the world's most popular Web server software, the foundation oversees the Ant Java build tool, the Tomcat Java page server and a number of other widely used open-source applications. With Sun tightening its financial belt, Jini may be better suited for Apache in the long run, where it can be shaped by a wider community.

Posted by Joab Jackson

Posted by Brad Grimes, Joab Jackson on Apr 19, 2006 at 9:39 AM

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