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Standardization to improve Java device management

The Java Community Process is working on specifications that should make it easier to manage Java-based devices in the enterprise.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ask any network administrator what their biggest ongoing challenge is and chances are the answer will include the management of mobile devices on their network.

Most administrators have little or no control over the multitude of Java-based devices that access any number of services on their networks. However, several industry experts at this week's JavaOne conference hope that will soon change.

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Companies like Nokia Corp., Vodafone Group PLC and even U.S. wireless operators like Cingular Wireless LLC say that the standardization of a single development platform for connected device configuration (CDC) and connected limited device configuration (CLDC) devices will lead to better remote management.

In a nutshell, CDC and CLDC are Java specifications for working with mobile devices. CDC is a framework for building and deploying mobile applications on smartphones and PDAs, and CLDC is similar, but intended for devices with limited memory and processing power like pagers and less advanced mobile phones.

To that end, members of the Java Community Process (JCP), the group that guides Java's development, are committed to building mobile service architectures (MSAs) that, according to Mark Duesener, technology manager for Vodafone, will "reduce uncertainty and complexity, and make everything backward compatible."

"In the PC world, we take client management for granted; we want that management and scalability in the mobile world," said Victor Brilon, senior manager of Java market development for Nokia.

The bases for the MSAs are a set of specifications being debated within the JCP, namely Java Specification Requests 248 and 249. JSR 248 is expected to have its first public draft in August with compliant devices to follow early next year, while JSR 249 devices are expected to debut in mid-2006.

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It is hoped that when those products are released, it will become easier to upgrade equipment with new functionality, increasing the lifespan of many Java-based devices.

Today, device upgrades present a big problem for administrators, according to Asko Komsi, director of Industry Relations at Nokia Inc. and specification lead. "Currently there is no control, no policy management," Komsi said. "It is like a big playground with toys all over the place."

JSR 249 would also provide a framework in which network and systems management software packages like IBM's Tivoli or Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenView could manage mobile devices.

Of course, these developments are simply laying the groundwork, as the success of the MSAs will rely on developers to create management applications that take advantage of them.

"We hope this will open up a new marketplace for developers," Brilon said.

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