Sun sees Jxta gathering steam

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Sun sees Jxta gathering steam

Sun Microsystems says its Jxta technology for peer-to-peer computing is gathering steam and may soon make its way into some of its own products.

The number of developers who have downloaded the free Jxta code from the internet has passed two million recently, up from about a million last March, said Juan Carlos Soto, director for advanced technologies at Sun.

The number of developers who have registered at www.jxta.org is much lower, however, at about 16,200, up from 12,000 a year ago.

A key goal at Sun has been to make Jxta better suited for use in commercial applications. In December it released version 2.2 of the J2SE (Java 2, Standard Edition) implementation of Jxta, an upgrade which focused on improving security and performance. A further release, with the codename Churrasco, is due in March.

Unveiled almost three years ago by Sun's then chief scientist, Bill Joy, Jxta provides a communications mechanism for linking peers in a distributed network.

It is offered under an open-source licence, and it is free, which has also been a source of criticism. Some analysts have wondered what Sun gets in return for its investment in developing Jxta, and why it has not made use of the technology itself until now.

Sun has already shown how Jxta could work as part of its N1 system for managing data centres. Installed on a group of servers, the technology can be used to indicate when servers go on and offline, and help to allocate computing jobs accordingly.

Jxta may also find its way into Sun's Java Enterprise System, a bundle of server software formerly called Sun One. For example, it could be used to improve the performance and scalability of the instant messaging component, in part because Jxta is unhindered by firewalls and network address translators, Soto said, who hinted that "some of these things will be coming out pretty soon".

Verizon Communications is using Jxta as part of an upcoming service called iobi, an advanced call management service designed to help customers juggle calls between their work, home and mobile phones.

As part of the service, due later this year, iobi will be able to set up a data channel automatically between two PCs, so that callers can exchange files or collaborate on documents. Iobi uses Jxta to locate those PCs on a network and establish the connection.

Another company using the software is Nokia, which installed Jxta on some of its infrastructure servers used internally, creating a peer-to-peer server network. "When one of these servers comes online or goes offline it is automatically discovered, and when it does come back online you can send the latest software to it," Soto said.

Sun has published a roadmap for Jxta at http://platform.jxta.org and has switched to releasing updates on a quarterly release cycle, as it does with its other products.

"Our main focus is around the areas that we think will enhance the capabilities for enterprise use - that's around enhanced security, enhanced performance and simplifying the APIs [application programming interfaces]," Soto said.

James Niccolai writes for IDG News Service

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