Seeking Shelter From Hailstorm

Sun unveils its answer to HailStorm; also plans B2B alliance with i2.

Jan Brady hated it. AL Gore hated it. And now Sun Microsystems is tired of playing second fiddle. Thats why Sun has unveiled a new peer-to-peer and B2B endeavor to counter Microsoft.

Following Microsofts HailStorm initiative, Sun last week posted source code and specifications for JXTA, its peer-to-peer foundational technology. Sun is getting help from several startups and consultancy CollabNet, which is helping Sun build an open-source developer commu- nity around JXTA.

JXTA, Sun chief scientist Bill Joys abbreviation for Juxtapose, represents the temporary associations of things that the protocol makes possible.

Joy and Sun VP Mike Clary began working on JXTA with a small group of advisers last summer and gradually expanded the group to include around 25 companies.

So far Sun has provided the core components and a shell, or command environment, to allow developers to experiment with JXTA. Although JXTA is currently implemented in Java, which allows it to run on all major operating systems, it is language-neutral and does not require Java.

Sun also is running a JXTA overlay network on top of the Internet. Joy thinks that with developer support, the protocol will be in good shape in about a year.

Michael Tanne, CEO of XDegrees, one of the startups working with Sun, says that in the wake of Microsofts .Net, developers have been waiting to see how Sun would respond. XDegrees is extending the Internets Domain Name Service to create XRNS, an LDAP-compatible utility that makes mobile devices and applications addressable and findable.

"One of the things thats going on is the ability to let network applications operate where they naturally should," Tanne says. "Another is Web services, which allows applications to publish themselves as services and create very flexible APIs using XML so people can call applications across the network."

In addition, sources say Sun and iPlanet will unveil plans to partner with i2 Technologies on a joint e-marketplace endeavor on May 1. Thats just a week after Microsoft announced it would loan Commerce One $25 million.

Sun executives refused to comment on the possible partnership.

Meanwhile, AMR Research senior analyst Bob Ferrari says the alliance makes sense but is not sure of its potential.

Referring to i2 as one of the stronger supply-chain players around, Ferrari says it still needs to prove itself and its works with Sun. "I2 is in the critical phase of execution here, in that a lot of companies have been drawn to i2 on the vision of what i2 can bring to B2B," he notes. "And I think the test right now is executing on that vision."