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Inferno heats up networking race

Lucent subsidiary Inferno unveils InfernoSpaces, a new networking technology designed to link disparate devices and communications products, a la Sun's Jini.

    Lucent venture Inferno today unveiled InfernoSpaces, a new networking technology designed to link disparate devices and communications products, much like Sun Microsystems' Jini or Microsoft's Universal Plug and Play.

    Unlike other networking protocols from Microsoft and Sun, Inferno's InfernoSpaces is capable of functioning in both the Windows NT and Solaris operating system environments, according to the three-year-old company.

    Lucent, Microsoft, HP, and Sun are racing to make good on the next great promise in networking--a software standard for connecting everything from light switches to supercomputers in one ubiquitous network. The idea is to reap the benefits of ubiquitous networks without having to deal with unmanageable technology.

    The company that sets the standard, naturally, can be expected to reap huge financial rewards.

    While Sun and Microsoft hope their technologies will drive sales of operating systems and computers, Lucent's sponsorship of InfernoSpace is aimed at driving sales of its next-generation telecommunications products. Inferno's technology is already being used for distributed call processing in Lucent's PacketStar IP Services Platform and Internet Protocol Exchange Systems.

    For Jini to succeed, "Java, and the Java Virtual Machine must be widespread," said John Gantz, an International Data Corporation analyst, at the market research firm's Directions conference in San Francisco yesterday. Unlike Jini, Inferno is not dependent on any one platform's success.

    Technologies such as Jini and InfernoSpace will cut into Microsoft's Windows dominance, Gantz said. "Computing as we know it changes," he said.

    Publicly announced in 1997, InfernoSpace will eventually be used to connect all manner of digital devices, including mobile computers, collaborative groupware, and Internet call processing, the company said.

    "InfernoSpaces can be used to write virtually any kind of network application, and can be used to build links to legacy systems," Inferno said in a statement.

    "The primary value to developers, however is speed and simplicity. Because developers can develop network applications more easily and with fewer steps, applications and the product that they may be embedded in can be produced more quickly and cost effectively," Inferno said.

    A beta version of InfernoSpaces is available at the Inferno Web site.