October 2, 2000 5:10 PM PDT
Commentary: Summoning a less-potent Jini
Transformational leaps in network computing never occur at blink-of-an-eye speeds. The much-ballyhooed Java Jini software is a case in point.
Although Jini still promises to lay a sumptuous table in the next few years in enabling next-generation networks, its current networking capabilities have proven to be a little too rich for application developers who, of necessity, are on strict memory and processing power diets.
So Sun Microsystems' decision to use a new "surrogate" architecture--not as complex as the original Jini foundation but more gutsy than its prototype design--is a predictable holding strategy to keep the tantalizing promise of Jini alive among application developers.
Jini remains an immature foundation and requires experimentation and nurturing for it to reach its potential, so the surrogate version should encourage developers to build the other services required to make Jini practical in real-world situations where a Java virtual machine is not available.
Jini's reliance on Java remains both its primary enabler and its ultimate inhibitor. Jini's success will be severely limited until the Java 2 Micro Edition platform is better able to support more extensive breadth and depth of Java technology. Yet many businesses have not yet migrated to the Java 2 version.
Through 2003, universal plug and play, as well as other emerging services, will coexist and compete with Java Jini in traditional statically distributed application developer environments.
Although universal plug and play uses Web protocols, such as HTTP and XML, to provide discovery and look-up services for distributed network services, it falls short of providing transportable network services. Gartner believes these alternatives will continue to lag behind Jini in breadth of services for pervasive network computing implementations.
Jini offers some benefits, but its maximum potential is realized in next-generation network environments. Jini likely will play a significant but relatively minor role by Java-enabling LAN devices such as printers, scanners and fax machines.
By 2003, however, existing distributed architectures will prove to be inadequate, and Jini will play a significant role in enabling a new generation of Java-based devices for emerging dynamic network computing environments. In this role, Jini technology will be present within business IT services as well as in mass-access devices such as handheld computers.
It is in this pervasive network computing role that Jini's hopes for a cork-popping entrance are most likely to arise.
Gartner believes that, through 2001, Jini will remain almost exclusively the domain of technology experimenters. Between 2001 and 2003, Jini should begin to emerge as a key enabling technology used in 70 percent of commercial network computing applications. By 2004, Jini will become Java's "killer application" enabler by clearly differentiating the Java platform's value over competing technologies for emerging network computing applications.
(For related commentary on Sun's Enterprise JavaBeans, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)
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