Sun Microsystems has a long history of developing highly promising technology. Unfortunately, with Jxta, its newly announced open-source peer-to-peer software, it is unclear just what that promise is, or how close Sun is to delivering on it.
The software itself--created by Silicon Valley veteran Bill Joy, co-creator of the widely used Internet programming language Java--is certainly interesting and may well prove to be useful in fostering cooperation and communication across devices and networks. Even Sun sources, however, privately acknowledge that they do not see Jxta as a spectacular breakthrough.
The problem--as with several of Sun's technologies, including JavaSpaces, Jini and those in the Sun Open Network Environment--is that the company has failed to develop and articulate a strategic vision of how the technology is to be implemented. Jxta is not an element of Sun ONE, the company's Web services initiative, which continues to lag behind its Microsoft counterpart, .Net, largely because of the absence of a Sun vision for the technology. Jxta was, in fact, developed entirely outside Sun ONE, although it is likely to be incorporated into that infrastructure at some point.
Sun also has a marketing problem in introducing Jxta: the recent cooling of the formerly red-hot P2P field. In making its Jxta announcement, Sun was careful to avoid the term P2P, not wanting to be associated with a technology that appears to be going out of fashion. A question lingers, however: How exactly will enterprises use Jxta to share files and programs across a multiplicity of networks, applications and devices?
It seems likely that Sun will eventually reposition Jxta as a foundation of what is now being called the "peer tier"--that is, as a way for Web services to be shared across many computers, rather than being hosted on a single machine. This is a vision that the company has struggled to present and clarify for some time, and the introduction of Jxta further clouds an already confusing picture.
See news story:
Sun to open "expanded Web" with Jxta
(For related commentary on the Sun ONE initiative, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)
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