March 4, 2003 9:04 AM PST

Sun: P2P is alive and well

Sun Microsystems, aiming to demonstrate that its open-source peer-to-peer software is gaining ground, on Tuesday announced a new version and highlighted how customers are using it.

Sun's Jxta software, introduced with great fanfare nearly two years ago, has been downloaded by more than 1 million users, the company said. Sun also noted that there are 12,700 members of Project Jxta, an open-source development organization led by Sun.

Originally introduced by Sun chief scientist Bill Joy, Jxta is the communications software that underlies a peer-to-peer network, in which devices communicate directly without the use of a central server to disseminate data.

Peer-to-peer computing has been popularized by music file-sharing systems like Napster and Kazaa. But Sun hopes to demonstrate the business benefits of peer-to-peer networks by noting some of the applications that developers have built using Jxta.

Establishing a peer network in an office, for example, can save on the cost of administering server computers and eliminate a single point of network failure, said Juan Carlos Soto, business and engineering group manager for Jxta at Sun.

On Tuesday, Sun said it has updated the Jxta specification in what it's calling Jxta 2.0. The updated software lets developers create a "super peer" on a network that can handle more of the network traffic than less powerful devices.

Sun has also made the Jxta code more modular so that developers can more easily download and use what they want. The first instance of Jxta 2.0, which is available for download, is for Java programmers.

In Sun's view of a peer network, devices ranging from very large server computers to tiny sensors can act as peers.

The National Association of Convenience Stores, for example, is considering Jxta to connect a number of devices at convenience stories, including inventory systems and the sensors on gas tanks.

Sun said other Jxta users include companies, such as InView Software, which has built its Momentum collaborative software using Jxta as the communications infrastructure to share files across networked PCs. With Momentum, workers can edit common documents and create shared calendars without the need to involve a network administrator.

Another software developer using Jxta is VistaPortal, which has built a portal application for the U.S. Coast Guard that publishes safety information without the need for a central server to store information. Yet another developer, Internet Access Methods, built a team application development system that allows multiple programmers to work on the same project and see changes to the code as they are made.

Meanwhile, Sun rival Microsoft made its plans in peer-to-peer software development more explicit last week. Microsoft said it will release a software development kit and enhancements to the Windows XP operating system to make it easier to build peer-to-peer applications.

Although Microsoft's peer-to-peer software is a competitor to Jxta, Sun's Soto said that Microsoft entry into peer computing could ultimately help drive adoption.

"Large enterprises will take another look at (peer computing) and not assume that it's college kids misusing it for music sharing," said Soto.

To contrast the Sun-led project with Microsoft's plan, Soto noted that Jxta is designed to run on a range of devices and, through its open-source initiative, can work with several programming languages and operating systems.

 

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