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"Platforms Take Time" - The Slow But Steady Rise of JXTA

"Platforms Take Time" - The Slow But Steady Rise of JXTA

(March 7, 2003) - When first it was launched, in April 2001, not many developers knew what kind of future lay ahead for JXTA (pronounced "Juxta"), the name that Sun Microsystems - and, later, the entire community of developers that have gravitated towards the project - uses to refer to the framework to support P2P applications that they have actively been championing ever since.

Two and a half years on, the community (now to be found at www.jxta.org) already numbers some 12,700 members and JXTA 2.0 has not only been released - it has been downloaded over a million times already.

Java Developer's Journal marks the arrival at this important milestone by talking exclusively to the community manager of jxta.org - he is also group marketing manager of Project JXTA - Juan Carlos Soto.

Soto used to manage business development for JavaSoft and so is no stranger to the complexity of trying to kick-start not an application or a service but an entire platform. "Platforms take time," he says, candidly. His enthusiasm for the potential of JXTA is palpable: "JXTA isn't an application in and of itself, it's a hard core technology for developers," he assures JDJ News Desk.

He once managed the engineering groups at Sun who were implementing Java for small devices, so clearly he has a strong personal sense of the potential of a technology that allows any device to talk to any other device on the network, "from sensors to super-servers" as he puts it. Version 2.0 of JXTA is in his view nothing less than an "unprecedented P2P solution," he says. According to Sun's CTO of Software, John Fowler, both IBM and Oracle, for example, are exploring facets of JXTA..."And so are we," he adds, confirming that, far from abandoning JXTA just because it now involves the open source community so much, Sun is about to redouble it investment of energy, expertise, and resources in JXTA (which is made available to developers on what Juan Carlos Soto describes as a "very liberal license").

It is now, then, that the really interesting part for Sun begins. Because arguably there is nothing like JXTA anywhere in the entire i-technology space: there is nothing that is so clearly ready for the massive scalability involved when P2P becomes - as Soto argues it is on its way to becoming - "an essential foundation technology to allow developers to scale to the millions of devices that increasingly exist on the network in these mobile times."

Does that "essential" mean that Sun will be taking JXTA to a standards body sometime soon, JDJ News Desk asks. Soto replies - again honestly, candidly, a quality that developers everywhere can respect and admire, which is why he is the community manager for juxta.org. "We're actively involved with developing it as a protocol standard," he replies, alluding to the sort of fundamental protocol such as TCP/IP or DNS, those that enable the Internet itself to work. . .and above all to scale.

Sources close to Sun confirm that, in fact, JXTA is being taken to the standards bodies; so Soto was probably just being diplomatic when he, for the first time, hedged his answer slightly on this one. Sun is likely, JDJ Industry Desk has learned, to make an announcement in the not too distant future on eactly this issue.

Sun's long-term vision is that JXTA will "network-enable" the apps that developers develop and thereby give the entire P2P industry a boost, showing the word that peer-to-peer "isn't only about stealing music" - it's a way of harnessing distributed computing so that a vast number of devices can be connected, "each capable not just of consuming, but also providing valuable resources to the network."

The jxta.org Web site, Soto notes, has become a meeting place for "many bright people from different backgrounds and different motivations but with a common goal to develop solutions that enable cooperation by peers of all types." He is particularly delighted, accordingly, to be able to say that this very week saw the launch of a commercial app making use of JXTA: InView Software, he explains, has come up with an application called "Momentum" that allows users to share documents and folders by creating "workspaces" and dropping their electronic documents into them so that users can thereafter work collectively. One user might for example use the real-time drawing functionality to amend or annotate a diagram; the others could respond to his amendment by making use of the integrated Instant Messaging that comes along with it.

Operating systems-independent apps like this are what JXTA is all about, Soto emphasizes. "Momentum," he notes, "can run on Solaris, Linux, or Windows." There is tremendous momentum now behind JXTA, he says - referencing how IBM's current explorations with the technology involve using it in conjunction with Web services, to enable Internet-wide "discovery" of Web services.

Since JXTA set up to operate as an open-source effort from its inception, and since its strategic course remains toward language-independent protocols, it really builds on Sun's already high reputation, largely won through Java, for supporting network computing and innovation.

"It's not about PC to PC, or XP to XP, or any single platform," he reminds JDJ News Desk, one final time. Nonetheless you can't help feeling that Soto, like Daniel Brookshier - the primary author of JXTA: Java P2P Programming, only the second-ever book to be published about JXTA, released last year by SAMS -"recognizes the gold" (Brookshier's phrase) in JXTA.

It will be up to the international development community to go panning from here on and find the precious metal in the JXTA opportunity. We at SYS-CON Media will follow developments with extreme interest.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Most Recent Comments
corlie 03/07/03 10:25:00 AM EST

The mention here of Daniel Brookshier, author of articles and a book about JXTA (1), prompts me to mention that I asked Daniel very recently if JXTA-compliant collaboration software could become the platform of choice for so-called Global Issues Networks.

Global Issues Networks are proposed by Jean Francois Rischard, the World Bank's vice-president for Europe, in solving the biggest worldproblems (2). In Rioschard's vision, Global Issues atsrt with a limited number of specialists, and should grow to many thousands of people in a few years time. In this networks people collaborate to define ways for solutions and should push governments in this direction. Global Issues Networks will need fast scaleable collaboration software-solutions.

I asked Daniel also how much time it will take to grow the technology?

His response:
"Yes, indeed JXTA will work. I can't imagine it taking too long to develop either. The next release should add the final touches to the ID system to make collaboration much easier to implement. As far as scalability, I don't see any problems. As to platform of choice, I believe that JXTA is the only platform that makes sense. The closed networks like Groove do not cause innovation. Specialty networks like Gnutella just don't have the breadth of API to do collaboration".

I hope you find this information interesting.


(1) Article: Brookshier, D. (december 2002) "JXTA: P2P grows up". [sun.com]

Book: "JXTA: Java

Curt Cox 03/07/03 09:45:00 AM EST

I'm exploring a similar architecture. The JXTA/Jini bridge seems like a missing piece of essential software. I've been wondering why Sun doesn't supply one. Is there any chance of your bridge implementation being open-sourced?

Tomah4wk 03/07/03 05:58:00 AM EST

I was commisioned to do a small project with JXTA (cant give details sorry) and found it to be excellent for the task in hand. The peer discovery and firewall piercing aspects, plus the fact that you can have peers that arent really peers, but use a sort of proxy system (think on cell phone / pda) are great. The project originally was using jini, but whereas jini is java specific, the jxta protocol can be programmed in anything you want. Now the system uses jxta globally, and jini on local networks, so we had to write a sort of jxta->jini->jxta bridge, but it works very well. On a side note the peer grouping and control features of jxta are unrivaled by anything else i looked at.

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