By William Fellows
With internet connections to the desktop secured, a group of thirteen vendors are creating an Open Service Gateway Specification using Java which they will use to try and connect the rest of the appliance world to the internet. The spec will embrace an acronym soup of mechanisms that have already been created to enable household devices, entertainment appliances, ATMs, kiosks, cash registers, alarms, gas pumps, handheld order entry and other equipment to networks including Bluetooth, CAL, CeBus, Havi, HomePNA, HomeRF, Jini, LonWorks and VESA. Its backers include Sun, IBM, Sybase, Oracle, Motorola, Lucent, Alacatel, Cable & Wireless, Ericsson, Nortel, Philips, Enron and Toshiba. It will take time for vendors to implement the spec in their equipment but the idea is that it will, for example, enable ISVs to write data center programs that can deliver services to a range of client appliances irrespective of how they talk to the local area network but conditioned specifically according to the activity information supplied by the appliance. The spec itself is due by mid-year and is based upon a subset of Sun’s Java Embedded Server which has been available since the end of last year. Deliverables include an application framework with resource management; client APIs for thin LAN and fat WAN clients; device APIs for LANs; security APIs; and data management APIs for database integration administration. Sun says Microsoft was not invited to join the project because its primary interest is in selling embedded Windows NT, not in solving the problem, it claims. To its knowledge, Microsoft hasn’t been called about the initiative. Handily, however, Sun says a new version of its Java Embedded Server supporting the gateway and Jini’s Aladdin lookup and registry services will be available later in the year. With a 100k footprint, the Java Embedded Server (JES) is designed to serve up information from devices such as vending machines, telephone switches, gas pumps and the like to enable the operators of such devices to check on the status of them and for them to be able to offer other services besides just gas and beverages. A set of JavaServer Services sits atop the server engine, which invokes and manages them. The services push the size of JES to a shade under 500k. Sun emphasizes that JES is complementary to, rather than a replacement for PersonalJava and EmbeddedJava, which are shrunken versions of the Java development kit (JDK) and environments in which to run Java applets, but JES enables a greater variety of applications to be executed remotely, says Sun. The JES can run on top of EmbeddedJava or PersonalJava, or any other Java virtual machine. Support for Sun’s remote method invocation (RMI) is included, but Corba is apparently too fat at present to be included. Servlets are also supported for server-side Java applets. JES is available now from $3,500 for one seat through $30,000 for 10 and $72,500 for 25 seats. There is also a single-digit dollar royalty fee per seat deployed, which could rack up to a fairly substantial sum if some of the more common embedded systems employ up this technology.