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.

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