Jini may be ready to leave the bottle

Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Jini technology, which has had a subdued market reception after five years, may be on the cusp of a broader acceptance.

The Java-based networking technology is intended to provide for service distribution and recognition of new services on systems ranging from wireless units to back-end enterprise systems. Jini devotees will gather in Cambridge, Mass., for three days beginning on March 23 for the “Seventh Jini Community Meeting.” Topics expected to be covered include the Judy Project, which involves bridging the Jini and Web services worlds, and Jini’s association with Microsoft Corp.’s .Net platform.

Sun chairman, president, and CEO Scott McNealy attests to a growing community interest in Jini.

“There’s a huge community built around it,” McNealy said. “It’s getting embedded here, there, and everywhere.”

While acknowledging Jini requires deployment of a Java Virtual Machine for the client, McNealy said this requirement can be met through setting up a proxy on the server.

Although Sun has not used Jini in any products, Sun believes the technology’s time is arriving, thanks to the advent of concepts such as grid, utility, and on-demand computing and with service-oriented architectures, said Jennifer Kotzen, senior product marketing manager for Jini at Sun. These concepts involve distributing compute cycles and services around a network on an as-needed basis, without particular regard to the origin of the cycles. Sun is now using Jini in development of products for dynamic connectivity services.

“Sun responds to market demands, and what we have seen is that the need that Jini technology fulfills has not been pressing until recently,” Kotzen said. The changing marketplace is expected to result in a corresponding increase in use of Jini technologies by Sun and its competitors, Kotzen said.

An analyst had a mixed review of Jini.

“Jini is a Java-based network technology that enables adaptive network-centric services based on shared memory (JavaSpaces) and code portability (reliance on the JVM),” said analyst Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink, in an e-mail response to questions. “It has achieved some measure of success in Java-centric environments. There are a good number of case studies on the Sun Web site. However, it is of limited applicability when compared to Web services because of its reliance on a single platform.”

Jini is not experiencing any renaissance but a coming of age, according to Kotzen. “Renaissance implies it has been dormant for a long time. I would say it’s a coming of age,” she said.

“Jini technology enables what we call the dynamic network style of Java distributed computing,” said Kotzen.

Jini and Web services have similarities, she said. Like a Web services architecture, Jini systems can be developed from distributed components.

Also on the draft agenda for the meeting are the use of Jini and JavaSpaces as an enterprise backbone and moving Jini lookup services to embedded devices. Jini licensing also is expected to be covered.

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