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Sun makes room for Jxta

After spending three years seeding the market for Jxta, Sun has plans to use the open-source peer-to-peer software in its own server and desktop lines.

Sun Microsystems is planning to incorporate software developed through its peer-to-peer computing initiative, Project Jxta, into its commercial software products.

Jxta software provides "plumbing" between networked machines to make communication easier, bypassing a central server and allowing computers and devices to automatically detect each other and share information directly. For the past three years, it has been developed as an open-source project backed by Sun, and has been used by several third-party software makers in their products.

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Now Sun is devising plans to slip Jxta tools into its own server and desktop product lines, Ingrid Van Den Hoogen, the company's director of software marketing, told CNET News.com on Tuesday. In the next year or two, Sun will incorporate aspects of Jxta in its Java Desktop System, a set of open-source desktop applications based on Linux, and in its Java Enterprise System Java server software bundle, she said.

"There are some very simple things we could do (with Jxta), such as extending the Java Desktop System to be more collaborative and offer peer-to-peer features," said Van Den Hoogen. Sun has approached customers to find out the best way to utilize Jxta in its products, she said.

Sun's Java server line will also take on some peer-computing capabilities from Jxta, according to company executives. It could be used to improve the management and scalability of products such as Sun's portal or its calendar server, executives said.

By making servers act as peers, rather than having them controlled by a central server, companies will be able to more easily offload processing load from one server to another, said Juan Soto, the director of Sun's advanced technology group.

Sun also wants to add peer-computing to its N1 initiative for managing complex data centers in a more unified fashion, according to Van Den Hoogen. With the automatic-discovery features of Jxta, N1 software could be more effective in sharing workload across several machines, she said.

While Sun is eyeing its own product possibilities for Jxta, it is continuing to promote the software's use among third parties--a push that helps drive demand for Sun's development tools and hardware. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said that Project Jxta now has more than 16,000 members and that the Jxta software has been downloaded more than two million times.

Verizon Communications is one company that decided to go with Jxta instead of with peer-to-peer software from Microsoft. The telecommunications provider is using the Jxta software and Java development tools to build a Web-based "communications platform" that allows people to converse on the phone while exchanging data such as documents.

One instance of Jxta's use in Verizon's voice-data communications service, called Iobi, is in file sharing. The Jxta software acts as a mechanism, or "data platform," to share the information between multiple points, according to Nosherwan Minwalla, senior architect for Verizon.

"We looked at a variety of commercial and open-source projects and finally chose Jxta for reasons of scale and robustness," Minwalla said. Most importantly, the Jxta software was flexible enough that Verizon could customize the file sharing relatively quickly, he said.