Welcome!

Java Authors: Roger Strukhoff, Lori MacVittie, Esmeralda Swartz, Trevor Parsons, Sandi Mappic

Related Topics: Java

Java: Article

Deutsch's Fallacies, 10 Years After

Deutsch's Fallacies, 10 Years After

In the fall of 1991, when mobile computing involved a hand truck and an extension cord, the idea of an everything-connected world was a leap of faith to some and a really crazy idea to most. But Sun's engineers were already working on notebook computers, and Peter Deutsch, one of Sun's original "Fellows," was heading up a task force to advise Sun on its mobile strategy.

Deutsch just called 'em like he saw 'em. When he got to Sun he began to consider some of the existing notions some engineers had about network computing, some of which were downright foolish.

Coming off a stint as chief scientist at Park Place Systems, Deutsch was looking to hang out and cogitate with and bask in Sun's intense engineering culture. He was a key designer and implementer of the Interlisp-D system and a significant contributor to the design of the Cedar Mesa language and the Smalltalk-80 programming environment. But he hadn't gotten into networking. It might have been some sort of intellectual hazing ritual that made Deutsch co-chair of a mobile computing task force. Or it might have been brilliance.

Bill Joy and Dave Lyon had already formulated a list of flawed assumptions about distributed computing that were guaranteed to cause problems down the road: the network is reliable; latency is zero; bandwidth is infinite; and the network is secure. James Gosling, Sun Fellow, Chief Technology Officer for Java Developer Platforms, and inventor of Java, had actually codified these four, calling them "The Fallacies of Networked Computing."

"It's a sort of funny thing," he says, "that in the large-scale world, networking didn't really exist in 1995. But since Sun was founded in 1982, networking has been at the core of what we do. We cut ourselves on all these problems pretty early on."

What Deutsch saw with fresh eyes was that, despite Gosling's warning, as engineers - inside and outside Sun - designed and built network infrastructure, they kept making the same mistakes, based largely on the same basic yet false assumptions about the nature of the network.

"The more I looked around at networking inside and outside Sun," Deutsch says, "the more I thought I could see instances where making these assumptions got people into trouble." For example, Deutsch could see Gosling's Fallacies coming into play as Sun moved its operations from downtown to its glamorous new campus near the San Francisco Bay.

"There was a lot of thrashing around about the topology of the network for the corporate intranet, where routers should be, etc.," Deutsch recalls. "Things broke all the time. My recollection is that it was watching all that thrashing around that led me to numbers five and six - that there's a single administrator and that the topology won't change." Number seven, that transport cost is zero, coalesced as Sun discussed creating a wide area network to connect the Mountain View campus with a new lab on the East coast.

When Deutsch wrote the list, by this time seven items strong, into a slide presentation, "It was no big deal," he says. Neither was there a roar of acclamation. Rob Gingell, Sun vice president, chief engineer, and Fellow, remembers it as an mmm-hmm moment rather than an ah-ha moment.

But putting it down on paper, codifying it, made all the difference. "The list Peter wrote down was a very pithy summary of the pitfalls people typically fall into," Gosling says. "We had many conversations about it. There would be a presentation where somebody would be proposing some design, and somebody would point out, 'You know, that kind of depends on the network being reliable. And that's false.'"

Gosling added the Eighth Fallacy - the assumption that the network is homogeneous - in 1997 or so. "It reflected a mismatch between our perception and others' perceptions of the network. That the network is homogeneous is never a mistake we've made. But it was clear that lots of people on the outside had a tendency to fall into this."

If the Fallacies pervade networking, Sun was perhaps ideally placed to identify and surmount them, says Gosling. "We have a very strong engineering culture," he says. "A lot of our work is about building solid reliable systems."

Beginning with Java, Sun has explicitly grappled with the Fallacies. Java's "write once, run anywhere" approach celebrates heterogeneity, according to Gosling. While nobody exactly tacked the Fallacies up on the wall when Jini was designed, says Gingell, "If you look at Jini, it's apparent that what it's trying to do is confront some of the Fallacies, because the Jini team and Peter shared a view of those problems." Jini lets diverse devices discover and interact with each other without any administrator at all; it also can deal with multiple administrators acting divergently.

Indeed. "Almost everything in Jini is about dealing with that list," Gosling says. "It's all about the dynamic, spontaneous reconfiguration of networks in the face of a dynamic environment. Things getting plugged in, things getting broken."

The Liberty Project is another example of Sun engineering's acknowledgment of the single administrator fallacy, according to Juan Carlos Soto, product marketing group manager for Project JXTA and the jxta.org open source community manager. "Liberty provides a federated identity mechanism that makes it convenient for businesses to interact while still respecting privacy, because there's no single point of control," he says.

JXTA goes perhaps furthest in turning all of the Fallacies into truths. It creates an ad hoc virtual private network among peer devices that aren't always at stable addresses, Soto says, so it solves the problems of multiple administrators, changing topology, and heterogeneous networks. Moreover, because JXTA makes it easy to create multiple instances of a service, and peers cooperate to move messages through the network, it creates great resiliency that counteracts the inherent unreliability of networks. It's designed to be efficient and conserve bandwidth as much as possible, reducing the impact of Fallacies Two and Three, and it accepts every authentication method for flexible and tight security.

"P2P is turning the computer into both a server and a client," Soto says. "It's way beyond a single administrator and a homogenous network. It abstracts a lot of those issues away."

The Sun days are a long time ago for Deutsch, who now, as president of Aladdin Enterprises, consults for technology and venture capital companies. He's a bit bemused that his short list of big goofs has become institutionalized as Deutsch's Fallacies. "If you had told me when I was at Sun that 10 years later, this one page of maxims was going to be one of the things I was best known for," he says, "I would have been floored."

Although networking has changed plenty since 1991, and some of the Fallacies, such as betting on a secure network, are more obvious, they are all still as applicable, Gingell says, and they continue to be driven into the hearts and minds of Sun's engineers. "Cultural reeducation is more important than any one product," he says. "If all our engineers understand networking at a very large scale... the products will take care of themselves."

More Stories By Ingrid Van Den Hoogen

Ingrid Van Den Hoogen is the senior director of software strategy and marketing for Sun Microsystems.

Comments (1)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, will describe how to revoluti...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, will discuss how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money! Speaker Bio: Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, has spent 16 years as a marketing, product management, and busin...
Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the company's recent SmartThings acquisition under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovaction Center (OIC), answered a few questions we had about the deal. This interview was in conjunction with our interview with SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. IoT Journal: SmartThings was developed in an open, standards-agnostic platform, and will now be part of Samsung's Open Innovation Center. Can you elaborate on your commitment to keep the platform open? Jacopo Lenzi: Samsung recognizes that true, accelerated innovation cannot be driven from one source, but requires a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash Inc., will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic • Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it’s a mix of architectural style...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SOA Software, an API management leader, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SOA Software is a leading provider of API Management and SOA Governance products that equip business to deliver APIs and SOA together to drive their company to meet its business strategy quickly and effectively. SOA Software’s technology helps businesses to accelerate their digital channels with APIs, drive partner adoption, monetize their assets, and achieve a...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customizable platform to easily integrate into existing software solutions, embed business logic and build s...
Connected devices are changing the way we go about our everyday life, from wearables to driverless cars, to smart grids and entire industries revolutionizing business opportunities through smart objects, capable of two-way communication. But what happens when objects are given an IP-address, and we rely on that connection, sometimes with our lives? How do we secure those vast data infrastructures and safe-keep the privacy of sensitive information? This session will outline how each and every connected device can uphold a core root of trust via a unique cryptographic signature – a “bir...
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, will discuss how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Spansion Inc. (NYSE: CODE), a global leader in embedded systems, today added 96 new products to the Spansion® FM4 Family of flexible microcontrollers (MCUs). Based on the ARM® Cortex®-M4F core, the new MCUs boast a 200 MHz operating frequency and support a diverse set of on-chip peripherals for enhanced human machine interfaces (HMIs) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The rich set of periphera...

SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.