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Despite the entertainment industry's best efforts to clamp down on peer-to-peer software, the technology appears to be thriving in the world of big business, at least if Sun Microsystems' JXTA software is any indication.

This week Sun gave word that JXTA has been downloaded 2 million times. These downloads combine with the more than 16,000 people who have signed on as members of JXTA.org, since former chief scientist Bill Joy first took the wraps off the technology three years ago. According to Sun, a number of large customers are picking up the JXTA code, including Verizon and Nokia.

"JXTA is still marching along as an open standards-based protocol for distributed and P2P computing," said Juan Carlos Soto, one of the JXTA leads at Sun. "We're very pleased the vision we've had has been validated."

JXTA is the most recent of Sun's J-themed technologies, arriving after Java and Jini.

Sun sent Version 2.2 of JXTA into the wild on December 15. The release contains some hardened security features along with several performance boosts. Sun has worked to help JXTA scale across more systems and have better communication throughput between devices.

Verizon has used JXTA to set up a P2P program for directing both voice and data traffic. Users can load a client onto their PC, which will display information on incoming calls and then open a pipe for swapping files. It's similar to an advanced version of instant messaging with telephony tools. Users can also have the software route calls to other phone lines.

Nokia has picked up JXTA for use in its data center. The JXTA software scans the network for servers that are up and running. If a system goes down, Nokia's JXTA-based software will send a message to other boxes to pick up the processing load and alert administrators about the failure.

Sun is hoping to use JXTA to build similar tools into its own N1 server management software. Why Nokia took the lead here instead of Sun is anybody's guess. Sun is also looking into using JXTA as the basis for collaboration tools on its Java Desktop System OS.

While Sun does promote JXTA with various marketing exercises, the company is fairly quiet about the technology when compared to some other efforts. This stance is somewhat disheartening given the fuss both Sun and Intel made about P2P technology back when Napster was booming and P2P looked like the next big thing.

"We do defend the merits of peer-to-peer technology," Soto said.

Soto's personal opinion is that entering the copyright fray with the media companies would be a distraction to P2P's future as a lubricant for large scale data center and device communications. The copyright mess is "outside of the context of P2P, as far I am concerned," he said.

This is certainly a shame for end users. Sun could do much to validate the idea that P2P file distribution has many advantages. Moreover, Sun could do its part as an "open vendor" to promote the use of P2P on open PCs, as opposed to leaving users stranded on computers locked down with DRM. But it seems that piggy-backing off of an illegal Napster is only good when it suits the press release and not such a fine idea in more somber times. ®

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