His take on Jini today? "It allows the programmer to think about developing systems that expect and deal with outage, mobility, the addition and removal of services -- in short, Jini's model of computing actually resembles the highly spontaneous and unpredictable world most of us live in and conduct business within. ...Bottom line: Jini is good enough to create real software with it now. And it's getting better."
Humphreys said he thought Sun had, indeed, made a mistake in taking so long to pitch Jini to application developers, as opposed to the device community.
"Jini actually represents a conflict for Sun, it doesn't yet help their hardware sales, but it could if marketed as a software services technology impact their market leading J2EE initiative and the Web services area they are penetrating. I suspect Sun are looking coldly at Jini and wondering where it fits into the picture."
His outlook for Jini's future is that it will gain wider acceptance but only if managed aggressively. He pointed to Jini's underlying JavaSpaces framework, modeled after David Galernter's famous tuple-spaces architecture, as promising.
"There is already growing interest in tuple-spaces from non-Sun sources. The Python and Ruby communities, for example, have their own tuple-space implementation that could be made interoperable."
Beyond that Humphreys was cautious. "Unless Sun really get behind Jini to the extent that they did for J2EE and drum up support both amongst device manufacturers and software developers, there is a real risk Jini, as a pure Java technology could fade away."Not A 'Significant' Technology
A pair of analysts were even more concerned about Jini's drift. One was hesitant, the other downright pessimistic.
Forrester Research infrastructure analyst Laura Koetzle said: "Sun initially pitched Jini as an ideal P2P framework for small, mobile devices, but Jini requires every peer to run a Java Virtual Machine. Small, mobile devices are often resource-poor, which makes running a full JVM difficult and creates substantial opportunity cost."
She sees Sun's own Jxta (invented later by Bill Joy and Crew, ironically) as Jini's main competitor. "By dropping Jini's VM requirements, Jxta... lowers the barrier to P2P networking entry. By remaining OS- and VM-independent, Jxta stays flexible enough to provide infrastructure for the P2P apps of the future," she noted.
Distributed computing guru JP Morgenthal, author of Enterprise Applications Integration with XML and Java, gives Sun a thumb's down for what it has accomplished with Jini. He states flatly, "Jini has not become one of the significant technologies in the Java family."
Morgenthal sees Jini as competing with many open standards movements at the same time, such as Jxta and Web Services. "They pushed Jini hard at hardware manufacturers to include as embedded components," he said. "This requirement results in additional expensive hardware and a reliance upon a technology that has not been broadly adopted by a large user base."
Jini could recover from its stumble out of the blocks or end up pulling out of the race. A harsh economic environment can mean gloom for technologies that do not quickly fend for themselves, but it can also strengthen the halest. We still don't know how Sun will manage Jini to maturity, but it clearly has a lot of parenting to do.
In the meanwhile, Procoma's Humphreys should get the last word: "Jini's approach will live on, because it's a paradigm that matches the pattern of future computing much better than today's big-selling enterprise approaches. So even if Jini fades, I have little doubt that in five years something similar will have taken its place and entered the mainstream -- but maybe based on .NET. That is the danger Sun are running if they walk away from Jini now."