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Sun Unveils Distributing Computing Software

Even the larger fish are trying their hands at peer-to-peer, or distributed computing, although Sun Microsystems Inc. leaked its news to the public in low-key fashion Wednesday.

Taking a bit of a breather from its fierce server battles with chief rival IBM Corp., the hardware company revealed a distributed computing software, the tangible evidence of a project that was announced in February. Project JXTA, (pronounced "juxta") aims to allow easy access to peers and resources on the "expanded Web," as the firm refers to it.

Another task devised by Internet visionary and Sun Chief Scientist and Co-Founder Bill Joy, the Java-based JXTA was created to smooth the information gathering process across multiple networks and diverse platforms.

The announcement marks an interesting twist for Sun, which has not pushed distributed computing -- a philosophy that calls for computing power in both the network infrastructure and the client devices used to access the network -- in the past. But it is hardly a departure from its bread and butter -- powerful servers and thin client devices.

Sun will likely use JXTA in its Sun One software strategy, which is geared to compete with Microsoft Corp.'s software-as-a-service strategy .NET.

Though best popularized by music file-swapping firm Napster Inc., and others of its ilk, peer-to-peer networking has been touted by analysts who see it as having huge potential to work in the enterprise space, where users could communicate with each other effectively across anything from personal digital assistant (PDAs) to PCs to servers.

Gartner Group said companies who use peer-to-peer networking gain new competitive advantages for their businesses.

"Businesses that need to give users access to distributed, business-critical content should consider data-centered peer-to-peer distributed content management solutions," said Joe Sweeney, research director at Gartner. "As this new model of content distribution matures, organizations will find that the flexibility of peer-to-peer solutions provides greater efficiency."

In much the same fashion as it did with Java, Sun also launched an accompanying site, jxta.org, as an open source project where developers can put their heads together to hash out uses of Project JXTA. The developers will work on distributed services and applications that allow users to quickly find, get, and use information.

Calling the project the fulfillment of a vision he has had for 25 years, Joy said he had wanted a computing model based on the systems approach from UNIX platforms, the portable code capabilities from Java technology, and the universal language for describing portable data from XML.

Now, it seems, Joy has it. Fresh out of its incubation phase, Project JXTA's formation is documented on jxta.org, which is supported by CollabNet, a collaborative software development solutions provider steeped in open source concepts.

"The Web is evolving in both depth and breadth into an 'expanded Web,' which makes it challenging to efficiently communicate and access resources on the Internet," said Mike Clary, vice president, Project JXTA. "Sun is offering a unified approach to address this next phase of distributed computing, an approach that will enable users to quickly and easily Find it, Get it, Use it."