Sun to let Jini spec out of the bottle

New Java technology to make everything compute

By Rob Guth

July  1998
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Tokyo (July 15, 1998) -- Sun Microsystems Inc, in an effort to rally industry support behind the newest piece of its Java platform, is moving into high gear promoting what it bills as a cornerstone for building a vast constellation of networked devices.

On July 20 the company will post the nearly complete specifications for a set of Java-based software components, called Jini, that enable devices to register on a network and be accessible to other devices connected to the network.

Within roughly two months Sun will offer the Jini source code as a free download for developers to work with on their own, officials said today. The key point is to spur widespread development by spreading the software far and wide, they said.

"Innovation that comes...will only come by the involvement of everyone together," said John Gage, chief science officer at Sun. "Some kid out in Beijing or Osaka or New Orleans or Cairo will think of a new way to use these pieces to build something more powerful."

The development expands upon ongoing work on Java object repositories, called JavaSpaces, and attempts to unite several other key Java technologies to enable networks, and perhaps even the entire Internet, to become giant virtual machines with a multiplicity of devices working together, Sun officials said.

An early step to achieving that vision is to have the Jini code, about 25 kilobytes in size, built into any device that can be connected to a network. Such devices might include hard drives, cameras, processors, displays, or printers. With that code the devices can offer their services (such as storage) over the network to others looking for such a service (such as a camera).

On a basic level such functionality is available in today's computing model, in which a single machine, managed by an operating system and connected to peripherals, can provide interaction among all its components and peripherals. However, the Jini concept breaks up all the pieces and tosses them out on the network. Physical location of each piece does not matter in the Jini vision.

Jini has been available to close Sun partners for months and has already been demonstrated at Java developer events around the world. But Sun this week has started its public relations engine in an attempt to bring the Jini effort to the fore and to quickly gain support among hardware makers.

Meanwhile, Sun has already been quietly making inroads with the technology. Officials at Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp., for instance, said they are already investigating the Jini work. A host of other companies, including drive equipment maker Quantum Corp. and L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co., are reportedly also working with the technology.

--Rob Guth is a correspondent with the IDG News Service


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