Users should keep an eye on Jini, the set of Java-based software components that promises cheaper, easier, distributed computing. But there's plenty of time left before they'll have to reach for a check book, says David Wood, president of the Australian Java User Group (AJUG).
"Without any doubt, Sun and IBM will come up with interesting uses of Jini, but the average corporate CIO won't be affected in the short term," he said.
Jini allows any device to register itself on a network and talk to all similarly registered devices. On the client side, Jini consists of a small Java stack on top of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).
A JavaSpaces server on the network makes any Jini-enabled device available to any other Jini device. Jini's appeal lies in its ability to leverage the existing installed base of networked hardware devices to create a distributed environment. However, it could take two to three years to transform that promise into mainstream reality, Wood suggested.
Jini technology offers a much less complicated and less expensive solution to the distributed computing problem compared to the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) But it will overlap with CORBA and Microsoft's Distributed Common Object Model (DCOM) rather than replace them, Wood said.
"I expect to see Jini and CORBA working together as both technologies mature," he said.
Microsoft has the ability to throw a spanner in the works as far as Jini's uptake is concerned, Wood noted. Jini is intended as an open standard which, in practice, means its success will hinge on cooperation between the large vendors. Should Microsoft, as a dominant industry player, refuse to support the standard, Jini's move into the mainstream becomes that much more difficult. To speed the process, Sun is offering Jini source code free via the Internet to developers.