RealTime IT News

Sun Coaxes Jini Out of the Bottle

Scoffed at and left for dead by industry experts over the last year, Sun Microsystems' Jini software for connecting multiple devices on a network appears to be gaining momentum.

The Santa Clara, Calif. company asserted that organizations are employing the Jini architecture as a Web service in order to link information from different offices in different groups. Once criticized for lacking a specific definition or direction, Jini has been trying to find itself since it was created four years ago, said Jennifer Kotzen, product marketing manager for Jini technology at Sun.

"Today, the market has come to understand its value proposition. Jini is earning its keep in the real-business world," she said.

For example, Kotzen said Templar Corp., which makes a data dissemination software product called Informant that law enforcement groups use, employs Jini to share data across networks owned by different data sources through a Web browser.

Law enforcement customers in California, Virginia, Florida, Oregon, and South Carolina use Informant to share information. Kotzen said Jini "gives them an advantage because users of the service can integrate additional data sources, adding or subtracting them as needed without needing to bring the system down or interrupt services to clients."

Jini also recognizes access sources and ferries information on the fly, making it a Web service, said Kotzen. Based on the Java language, Jini has been criticized over the last couple of years by experts claiming the technology was amorphous and lacked distinction from some Java technologies. But Kotzen said Jini performs many of the same tasks, integrates with, and is complementary to Java Web services. Indeed, she added, one may be used on the front-end, while the other is used on the back-end in projects. Wednesday's news announcement is a move to underscore the distinctions.

Both Jini and Web services help programmers connect things together on the network. One difference: to connect clients and services, Jini uses mobile Java code; Web services use mobile data, usually XML. "Jini is enabling dynamic networking capability and integrates multiple styles," Kotzen said.

Heartlab, Orange PLC, Templar, Valaran, Cysive and the FETISH Federation are some of the businesses currently using Jini technology to create dynamic networking systems. The FETISH project applies Jini technology within a Java Web Service framework to link travel services offered by different providers and built on disparate platforms throughout Europe. Jini is also being used by early adopters in emerging markets that include mobile computing, grid computing, telematics, and industrial automation.

Progress has been made in the Jini development community as well, as the Jini Decision Process (JDP) has signed off on the first Jini standard. Contributed by Artima Software, the ServiceUI application programming interface (API), standardizes an approach for attaching user interfaces to individual Jini-based services.

The ServiceUI API enables multiple user interfaces to be associated with a single Jini service, allowing the service to be accessed by users with varying preferences and accessibility requirements on computers and devices with different user interface capabilities.

"To use both Web services and Jini in practice requires standards that define how clients talk to particular kinds of service. For example, the airlines could get together and define a standard Web service and/or Jini API to talk to any airline reservation service. The purpose of the Jini Community and its Jini Decision Process (JDP) is to provide a place where people can get together and define such standards," said Artima Software President Bill Venners, who shepherded ServiceUI throughout its journey.

Venners offered the following context for Jini and ServiceUI: "Web services and Jini allow software to use network services. Web pages and Service UIs enable people to use network services. The intent of the ServiceUI API is to leverage mobile code to enable a richer, more adaptable user experience than is available with Web pages."

There are about 100 commercial licensees of Jini technology, many of which are independent software vendors. However, Venners said more corporations are deploying Jini technology-based applications within their IT departments.

Venners said his firm released the API in April 2000 under the Sun Community Source License (SCSL), where it began to grow on the Jini community. The proposal was voted on and passed in March 2003 and officially became a Jini Community standard yesterday.