Jini, the new computing paradigm that Sun Microsystems Inc. is trying to set in place, threatens to move science fiction into commercial reality. The development builds on the Internet and Java to bring us closer to a global nervous system of interactive intelligence.
Sun is trying to leverage the ubiquitous presence of microprocessors and networks with a notion that the network should be the design center for computing. The essence, it says, is a set of guidelines that enable a federation of Java virtual machines to work together to make a more powerful network that would connect anything, at anytime, anywhere. Although still a research project, the company says Jini involves 30 companies in consumer electronics, computer peripherals, enterprise computing, computer systems, service, and software development. With Jini, the consumer will experience "instantaneous networking," the ability to dynamically establish via a network "dial-tone" the communication, sharing, and exchange of services between any hardware or software.
For example, imagine plugging a camera into a network. It instantly joins the network, no driver to install, no floppies or CD-ROM to insert, no keyboard commands to type. And if the camera could talk, its message to the network would be something like: "I'm a camera, anyone need pictures?" Although Jini's distributed computing idea seems to run counter to today's Wintel reality, Microsoft Corp. reportedly has a somewhat similar research project called Millennium. It is said to position distributed computing as the operating system of the future.