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Sun revs Jini

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What with the holidays, there isn't much of December left. But Sun promises us that a new version of Jini, 1.2, will be released before the year's out.

It's a characteristically discreet drop, for the Jini team seems to prefer working away from the spotlight -
even when it's being goaded by Microsoft, which declared "victory" over Jini a couple of weeks ago. When we caught up with Franc Romano, the group marketing honcho last week, he didn't want to return the low blows. Not the typical Sun response, at all.

This softly-softly approach contrasts with the media overkill of the Jini launch three years ago, which saw Bill Joy straddling a globe, wearing that Bill Joy I've-really-done-it-this-time expression, for the cover of Wired magazine.

At the time, Jini was almost universally acclaimed as the right architectural approach to solving the right problem - getting dumb devices to discover each other and engage in basic transactional relationships - but nagging voices wondered how Sun could steamroller the embedded world into adopting its baby. It couldn't, it discovered fairly shortly, and the steamroller turned out to be exactly the wrong kind of vehicle.

So what's new?

Actually if you're up to speed with the web chat that Jim Waldo gave in August, it's going to sound very familiar. Jini Version 1.2, codenamed Alewife will address performance, and run multiple service son a VM, Romano told us. The new security model codenamed Davis is still receiving input, and should be finalised early next year.

The emphasis now is on adaptive networking. It wants Jini-based intelligent networks to be the norm in eight years. In contrast to the initial pronouncements, there's little emphasis on pushing Jini into kettles, toasters, or consumer white goods.

(That drum is being thumped by the OSGI, the Open Services Gateway Initiative, which is technology agnostic, and seems to be a testing ground for all those home automation demos we've seen at past CeBIT expos from Ericsson and Philips).

Jini's licensing has got a lot more flexible. There's no logo requirement, licenses are free and evergreen - the last for the lifetime of the licensee - and like Java, Sun only requires that they pass certification. But this being self-certification, is a lot less onerous than the Java requirement.

Romano makes much of Jini's join capabilities, which he reckons no other rival can do, and its protocol independence. That contrasts with discovery services such as UDDI, which underpins web services, and rival technologies such as UpnP, Universal Plug and Play, from Microsoft. (HAVi gets mentioned as a Jini rival, we're baffled why as it seems to usto be a cabling solution that's as happy with Jini as it is with UPnP.)

Back in August, Waldo told the JavaLive session, "I would not foresee (and will fight to the death) a move to make Jini HTTP-centric. That said, there is no reason why a set of Jini lookup services couldn't advertise in a UDDI directory to allow themselves to be accessed over the world wide web. That's just an implementation detail."

He predicted that the HTTP-based web services architects would be finding the same problems in a couple of years that Jini has been grappling with since inception.

Romano reckons Jini has 80,000 developers, 50,000 more than claimed a year ago, and 70 commercial licensees, which is considerably more than we'd been expecting. Most of these are in defence, industrial vertical markets such as telcoms and automation, and healthcare. Romano puts the number of Jini devices in use in the hundreds of thousands.

No, he wasn't miffed at Jini's low profile in Sun's recent Sun.ONE web services marketitecture. He sounds like he'll be happy to see Jini creep into the routers and edge infrastructure over time. ®

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