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Can Jini compete against Bluetooth?

Jini technology may not stand a chance against Bluetooth when it comes to attaching electronics to a network, but analysts say it can be a viable means of facilitating communication between applications.

Sun Microsystems Inc.'s 5-year-old Jini technology can't keep up with Bluetooth in the race to become the dominant architecture for attaching electronics to a network, IT industry analysts said. But Jini may yet find success beyond the realm of plug-and-play devices.

Some say Jini's true calling lies within the application layer of a network infrastructure, where, in a fashion similar to that of Web services technologies, it will facilitate communication between different programs.

"I think compared to Java, [Jini's success] is kind of minimal and hasn't taken off as some would have expected," said Stephen O'Grady, an IT analyst with Bath, Maine-based RedMonk. "Where I see the importance for Jini at this point is in the application world."

The Jini architecture allows printers, storage systems, speakers and any other piece of hardware to be plugged directly into a network. Each pluggable device defines itself immediately to a network device registry, so that every other computer, device, and user on that network will know that the new item is available.

When someone on the network wants to access the new resource, their computer downloads the necessary programming to communicate with the device from the device itself. This eliminates the need for device drivers to be present in an operating system.

About the same time that Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun Microsystems introduced the Jini architecture, the company also launched and The Jini Community as a means for users of the technology to collaborate and share experiences. The Seventh Jini Community Meeting was held recently in Cambridge, Mass., and featured speeches from Jini users, including Digital Reasoning Systems, GigaSpaces Technologies Ltd. and Orbitz Inc.

Keith Campbell, CIO of Oklahoma City-based Inoveon Inc., a medical services firm, was one of the speakers at the recent Jini community meeting. He said the nature of his business required that his company set up a highly distributed network.

"Jini was a natural fit for us," Campbell said. "The Jini model provides programmers with a way to anticipate points of failure."

"We're using agent-based workflow, and one of the values that this provides when combined with Jini is the ability to have our patient sites work without a real-time link to the data center," Campbell added. Once a real-time link is re-established, he said, the network is automatically updated with any information that was entered into devices during downtime.

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Tony Iams, a senior analyst with D.H. Brown Associates of Port Chester, N.Y., said Bluetooth has become the technology of choice for attaching devices to a network mainly because it has been adopted by big players such as IBM, Nokia and Microsoft.

But with the growing use of Java in the network, Iams said, Jini has a good chance of gaining acceptance as a means for creating application networks that talk to each other and provide traditional types of IT services. The ultimate success of Jini largely hinges on the success of Java, he said.

"The whole concept of cell phones and PDAs will merge," Iams predicted. "Java is strongly positioned to be one of the major development platforms for letting people write applications in that environment."

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