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Sun finds Jxta fan in start-up

A start-up called eMikolo Networks will take the stage Wednesday at Sun Microsystems' JavaOne trade show, saying it's found a use for Sun's recently released Jxta software.

SAN FRANCISCO--A start-up called eMikolo Networks says it has found a use for Sun Microsystems' recently released Jxta software and will take the stage Wednesday at Sun's JavaOne trade show here.

Jxta is software Sun released to try to spur and influence the nascent "peer-to-peer" movement to connect computing devices directly to one another, a movement popularized by the success of Napster. Sun hopes Jxta eventually will enable new software abilities on the Internet, but thus far the project is mostly just an experiment.

During a Wednesday keynote address, though, Sun Chief Scientist Bill Joy will share the limelight with eMikolo executives who will be describing how they'll move from their current custom-made peer-to-peer software to Jxta, said eMikolo Chief Marketing Officer David Gee. Gee left Sun in May to join the start-up.

eMikolo, a 25-person company based in Redwood City, Calif., with programming in Rehovot, Israel, is creating servers with software that "cache" information across the Internet, closer to the browsers that need the content. Where some companies rely on special-purpose servers for this task, eMikolo stashes the information on ordinary PCs that are members of its peer-to-peer network.

eMikolo used its own peer-to-peer software to help arrange features so peers could find each other and communicate, but Gee said the company had some influence over the creation of Jxta and will use it when it becomes more mature.

eMikolo hopes companies with streaming video or audio--TV stations or movie studios, for example--will encourage people to download the Java program that lets their computers join eMikolo's network. Faster downloads for participants are an incentive to join the network, devote some hard disk space to storing eMikolo content, and donate some of their outgoing network connections.

A key part of the company's plan--and about 30 percent of its intellectual property--involves "proximity" software that figures out which combination of peers can send information to a given computer the fastest, said Chief Technology Officer Ittai Golde. Cached information is "striped" across many computers, which means that each computer may contribute just a fragment of a needed file.

eMikolo estimates that about one tenth of the information that's downloaded to an eMikolo peer will be uploaded for others' use. Only information that computer users have downloaded themselves is cached on their computers for use by eMikolo's network, Gee said.

The company plans within 90 days to begin selling servers called "peer switches" that enable the feature, Gee said. The software runs on Windows 2000, but the company plans to make it work on Sun's Solaris as well. Gee hopes other companies, such as Dell Computer or IBM, will sell the servers.

eMikolo is funded with somewhat less than $5 million from Israel Seed Partners, funding that should last at least until the first quarter of 2002, Gee said.