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JAIN's Addiction: The Java Advanced Intelligent Network

  • By Apu Shah
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Where Java fits in

It is truly a great vision to have a cohesive unified network, but the biggest problem with AIN is a lack of standardization. Devices and programming environments remain closed and proprietary. Incompatibilities and "impedance mismatches" abound. Though standards bodies are actively pursuing the issue, little progress has been made so far. Besides protocol and interface level standards there are also technical incompatibilities that render services useless on platforms that they were not developed for. Services suffer from vendor lock-in as migrating from one platform to another is not easy and involves substantial effort and cost. Developing services requires a high level of domain exposure and expertise, thereby raising the entry barrier for third parties to provide service implementation and hosting. From the network infrastructure providers, to the equipment vendors, to the service carriers, the IN ecosystem is a tightly intertwined mesh that is tough to break through.

Enter Java. Java becomes the enabling technology for solving existing problems in the telecom industry. Java goes one step further by opening up and integrating the telecom networks with other existing networks, like IP, wireless, etc. The essence of the JAIN initiative is to integrate, liberate, and standardize the network services industry through the use of Java technology.

The most important feature that JAIN will provide is a standard, platform-neutral and ubiquitous operating environment for services, namely the Java Virtual Machine. Services are now portable across equipment from different vendors. Developers familiar with Java can create services by learning a few concepts and APIs. This throws the telecom service industry open to hundreds of thousands of existing Java developers and ISVs and the potential to create numerous innovative and cross-functional services.

Though JAIN is still in its infancy, the promise of this technology has motivated over 20 industry players to endorse and actively develop it.

Along with the pervasive computing environment, JAIN will standardize interfaces and programming models for intelligent network services. JAIN preaches a component-based architecture based on Java Beans. This standardization effort will enable interoperability between service implementations and will encourage service developers to write modular building blocks and reuse them. Functionality can be delivered by simply connecting these blocks together in different combinations. Implementation cycles for new services will be drastically reduced. Deployment could be real-time.


JAIN is being specified as a community extension to the Java Platform. Development is being carried out under the terms of Sun's Java Specification Participation Agreement (JSPA), Java Community Process (JCP), and Sun Community Source Code Licensing (SCSL). This means that any feature that will ultimately be provided with JAIN has to be endorsed by an expert group.

The JAIN initiative consists of two expert groups:

  • The Protocols Expert Group (PEG) specifies interfaces to wireline, wireless, and IP signaling protocols.
  • The Application Expert Group (AEG) addresses the APIs required for service creation within a Java framework spanning across all protocols covered by the PEG.
A significant amount of work has already been done on JAIN. Numerous Java Specification Requests (JSRs) have been approved under the Java Community Process, which means that the work of defining and implementing the APIs has been approved and will be released in the near future. JSRs have been approved for various communication and application level protocols, transaction and operational interfaces, management interfaces, and service creation and execution interfaces.


The biggest hurdle facing JAIN today is the lack of embedded JVMs in telecom equipment. Equipment vendors will have to work together with JVM providers to ensure that future telecom equipment upgrades come with a JVM. Without the embedded JVM, JAIN is useless. Industry players must work together in defining and implementing the JAIN APIs in a manner to discourage vendor-specific extensions and proprietary APIs.


The vision of a unified and cohesive network in which services are portable, scalable, extensible, interoperable, and flow freely without modification between networks is a powerful one. JAIN is the first step toward integration of IP, wireless, cellular, and PSTN networks. By providing industry standard environments and interfaces to creating intelligent network services and applications, JAIN will create the opportunity for ISVs, network service providers, equipment vendors, and carriers to create numerous innovative Java-based components to strategically grow their respective businesses. Though JAIN is still in its infancy, the promise of this technology has motivated over 20 industry players, such as Ericsson, AT&T, Telecordia, ApiON, and so on to endorse and actively develop it. This technology has the potential to radically change the whole network-services market and open up various opportunities for those who capitalize on JAIN.


For information about JAIN:
JAIN product pages

For information on the JAIN Java Specification Request:
Java Specification Request (JSR)

For information on the Java Community Process:
Java Community Process pages

For information about Intelligent Networks:
Intelligent Network tutorials

About the author

Apu Shah is the director of technology at Boston Education and Software Technologies. His focus areas are network and distributed computing. Feel free to contact him at apu@bostonci.com.

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This article was originally published on October 20, 1999

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