Sun Microsystems gave a first indication Tuesday of plans for its new peer-to-peer initiative by buying a small start-up that is building a new kind of search engine.
Sun gave the world an "="" rel="">early glimpse
of its new "Jxta" (pronounced Jux-ta) program last month, calling for help
from the open-source community. Jxta, although still in the early stages, is
designed to be a standard, open technology platform on which other
peer-to-peer services can run.
As a possible foundation for a wide array of Net-based services from Sun as
well as other companies, the Jxta initiative was seen as potential
competition for Microsoft's proprietary .Net Web services plans. Sun chief
scientist Bill Joy said last month that Sun plans its own set of
peer-to-peer services and wants the open-source software in place to make
The first of these services to emerge is the basic ability to search, a commonplace function on the Web but a more complicated project in the
decentralized world of peer-to-peer services. Sun bought start-up
InfraSearch, one of the first projects to be based on the Gnutella
"One of the things we've thought all along is that searching in a
distributed fashion...is one of the fundamental things we wanted to bring to
market," said Mike Clary, head of Sun's Jxta project. "After seeing
(InfraSearch), it made sense to merge it with Jxta."
Peer-to-peer technology has been cast into the spotlight over the last year
by the emergence of services such as Napster and Gnutella, which have
threatened to undermine entertainment conglomerates by allowing individual
computer users to swap music or video files by the millions without paying a
But that file-swapping model has overshadowed other uses for the technology.
A peer-to-peer model simply means that individual machines, whether they are PCs,
set-top boxes, mobile phones or Web-connected databases, are swapping
information on an equal basis. In the peer-to-peer world, any machine could
upload or download information to or from another, as opposed to the more
rigidly hierarchical model of individual computers downloading information
from dedicated Web servers.
As first reported by CNET
News.com, the InfraSearch technology melds the wholly decentralized model of
the Gnutella file-swapping service with search features familiar on sites
like Yahoo or AltaVista. Companies using the technology could be able to
return search results that are updated in real time, a difficult or
impossible prospect with the models used by companies like Yahoo or Excite,
the creators contend.
The company is headed by Gene Kan, a programmer who has taken a lead role in evangelizing the Gnutella technology. Dubbed "Gone Silent" for months since
its initial unveiling last May, the project has largely proceeded along its
original lines, Kan said.
Other peer-to-peer search engines have emerged in the meantime, including the Seattle-based Project
Pandango, operated by i5 Digital.
Financial details of Sun's acquisition were not available.