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Sun RFID Goes 2.0

Sun Microsystems said its latest Sun Java System RFID Software 2.0 helps reduce network traffic by pushing computing closer to the edge.

The latest middleware version adds a Web-based interface for remote management, device-specific service levels and support for next-generation RFID standards, the company said on Monday.

The original Java System RFID software was released in July 2004. This update responds to changes in the market, according to Sam Liu, director of RFID product management for Sun.

"Last year there was a lot of talk about getting ready for the Wal-Mart mandates and the EPC network, where you're using RFID for business supply chains," Liu said.

"Certainly, there's still a lot of talk about that, and a number of our customers come from the mandate side. But another half comes from the non-mandate world and are not EPC- based," he said.

EPCglobal is an industry standards organization working to combine RFID with uniform product codes to create a replacement for product bar codes.

Sun customers in the health care and transportation industries use RFID for internal asset tracking, for example. "We've seen a much broader application of RFID than just in the supply chain and the product reflects that," Liu said.

Sun Java System RFID Software is designed to integrate with and provide services to a variety of applications through a number of standard protocols and interfaces, including the newly ratified Gen2 standard and EPCglobal Application Level Events (ALE).

"We're Gen2 ready, so if, in a few months, they start introducing Gen2 readers, customers don't need to swap out the software," Liu said. "It makes their migration path much easier."

ALE allows networked sensors and RFID readers to play in a service-oriented environment. The technology allows users of Sun's RFID system to place much of the data processing and business events closer to the network edge, Liu said. Previously, when an enterprise system wanted information from the RFID system, it would have to process all the data from the readers and do the calculation. With ALE in the middleware, the application can simply make a Web services request, which is processed by chips in the readers.

"Computing resources is not usually an issue [in RFID networks]," Liu said. "Minimizing network traffic is more important."

Liu said the software's services-oriented architecture has the ability to assign network resources to specific devices or groups of devices and to guarantee minimum levels of service.

The new version of Java System RFID Software includes a browser-based management interface for centralized monitoring and management of RFID devices and other sensors across a distributed network. The previous version offered APIs for linking the system to third-party management tools; version 2.0 maintains those APIs while integrating a management tool. Device settings can be changed remotely, and, if the device supports it, software upgrades can be accomplished as well.

Sun's strategy is to offer an end-to-end system, including hardware, storage technology, middleware, applications built on top of it, professional services and test centers. The software is optimized for the Solaris Operating System (SPARC and x64), and is also available on Linux.