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A Jini pioneer: an interview with Freeman Jackson

  • March 3, 1999
  • By Kieron Murphy
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Beaming to the enterprise

EarthWeb: What kind of feedback are your customers giving you? What are you hearing from them and other sources in your professional work?

Jackson: Most of my clients are interested in using Jini as enterprise technology. They need to be able to connect ten thousand workstations.

When someone throws out a technology like Jini, I'm going to say, "Wow, this thing looks perfect for enterprise work." But I haven't gotten that from Sun, and I don't think my clients have either. Right now, I have to get to the point, I have to convince them that this is the way to go. Because I can offer better services, basically. I know I can offer better services. The JDBC example is a good one. If I was to do that in CORBA, it would not work as well. It wouldn't marshal as well. I wouldn't be able to thread it as well.

Another issue is that Sun is giving away an ORB. I don't know if it's free or not. I don't know the total issue with the licensing agreement, but they're giving away a CORBA ORB, which is also interesting. As a member of the OMG, I'm part of what's called the Enterprise Component Coalition [ECC], which is a kind of secret rebel group. We're trying to make our presence known in the OMG for some of the changes that they need to make.

Things got very interesting recently, because I'm writing to the ECC, saying: "You guys need to look at Jini." And I'm sending it out to the Jini Listserv, saying: "I'm going to... talk a lot more about using Jini for enterprise technology." I'm in a position where I have to do it.

"The issue in my mind is to achieve as many players around Jini as possible."

If Sun says, "Jini is free for enterprise work," and it can clearly challenge CORBA and clearly challenge DCOM, and it's open, then that's different. Maybe they like concealing it because they don't want to alarm OMG. But if you come out with a free ORB, you have to look at some of the players, like Iona with Orbix, for example.

The issue in my mind is to achieve as many players around Jini as possible and kind of hand off Jini to the community and to rest of the world. I think they might want to hold on to it for a little while, until it at least grows and gets to a point where it's robust and where it can survive. I know it has to go through meetings with the World Wide Web Consortium, maybe try to get them to buy into it also. Sort of like what they did with Java: go to the open standards groups.

They've got a lot of work to do. I don't want to, in any way, interfere with those processes as they are taking place. I'm a player at OMG, but I'm a small one. I'm not coming to the table with the kind of money Iona is coming with when I vote.

I don't want to be involved in anything that would be detrimental to Jini in any way.

An "open" Jini community

EarthWeb: Tell us a little about your "Jini Community" project -- JiniVision?

Jackson: We're very excited about it. The Jini Community has grown very quickly in a short period of time. We opened our doors January 1st, and we continue to gain members every day.

"I think Jini, like Java, is going to be so much bigger than Sun."

However, I need to do a better job of organizing the supporters. Several dozen programmers and developers have written me and expressed an interest in contributing. Some of them are still trying to get Jini out of the bottle. In the next couple of months, I'm going to run JiniVision.com as a very serious Web site for developers in the area of Jini and enterprise computing. We're not going to wait for electronic devices. We don't see that as being a very strong point at this particular time.

I really want to work with Sun, and I think they're doing something that's useful. I just think Jini, like Java, is going to be so much bigger than Sun.

There's not really much that they can do about it. They have to do a balancing act between "how much control do we want to hold on to and how much do we want to let the Internet public to play with it?".

At what point do they start saying, "Okay, do we want to develop or sell?"

One of the things I think they have to do is sell JavaSpaces. I don't see what you're going to do with that yet. That part of it isn't open. Some of it is open and some of it is not. The other thing is, some of us are also in a position -- I'm not going to release any details -- to also offer a JavaSpace server. Or will be in that position. I don't know what they're going to do, as far as making products and making more money. I'm sure that they'll be able to license the technology to Sony or Panasonic. But I'm interested to see how this whole thing pans out with say, for example, if IBM makes the choice to start doing more Jini stuff. It could be pretty interesting. So let's see.

EarthWeb: That brings us to the most controversial aspect of this: Do you have any comments on the pricing of Jini? I've heard reports that say Sun is going to charge you ten cents per unit, I guess that's for electronic devices, or $250,000 a year. What's your comment on that?

"I don't see a problem with paying for a Jini technology license."

Jackson: Well, it may be that we're a little naive. I know a little bit about that, it's this pay-as-you-go thing. We'll find out. If we're making money and Sun comes to us and says "Okay, you guys are making money, you're using our technology, you have to pay such-and-such." There's not really much we can do about it; we're a small company. What do I think about it? I think the stuff should be free. But if it's a fair price, and it's something we can afford, and we're both happy, we're willing to work with that.

EarthWeb: You can live with it.

Jackson: I wouldn't recommend an organization spending a hundred thousand or a quarter of a million dollars if they don't have the proper strategic planning. The fact is that Siliware is producing technologies like VisionScript for Enterprise Jini Computing and plan on performing a really nice marketing campaign. If Sun helps Siliware with marketing and getting customers, I don't see a problem with paying for a Jini technology license.


About the author

Kieron Murphy is the editorial manager for EarthWeb. He has previously written for The Java Report, JavaWorld, and IEEE Potentials, among other publications. He can be contacted at: kieron@earthweb.com.

This article modified March 8, 1999.

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