Oracle Corp has teamed with Ram Mobile Data Ltd to use Ram’s Mobitex data network for its Mobile Agents application development and messaging environment. Mobile Agents, which was launched in the US in September last year, but has been available in the UK for only three months, combines an application messaging infrastructure that can link into various types of networks, with an application programming interface that enables packages to be written for users on the move with widely-used application development tools. Mobile Agents is a component-based system, comprising the applications, message manager, message gateway and agents, linked to a server. The applications are the user-written components on the client computer that make requests to the agent via wireless networks, telephone lines or local area networks. Message manager is Oracle’s software that resides on the client computer and delivers messages. The message gateway forwards and queues messages, and deals with security.
The agent and the server
The agents themselves consist of an agent event manager, which resides on the server and communicates with the message gateway, and the handlers, written by the user for each type of action that is required by the client application. Oracle has added another phrase to the lexicon of computer architecture with what it calls client-agent-server. In this set-up, the client and agent combine to do the work normally done by the client alone. The client-agent server architecture is necessary, said Oracle, because it enables the system to minimise the use of the client’s communications link and take advantage of the high-speed link between the agent and the server. The mobile client needs to be able to send messages to the server without concern for which type of network it will run over. The client does not talk to the back end; rather the client-server-type communications take place between the agent and the server instead. The round trips for the messages on traditional client-server would also take far too long, according to the firm. Although mobile agents can work over a variety of network protocols, it is best suited to packet radio networks, such as the Ram one, said the companies. West Drayton, Middlesex-based Ram charges a fixed amount each month for continuous access, and the Mobitex network has roaming agreements in the Netherlands, France and Belgium and is compatible with Mobitex networks in the US, Canada, Australia, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Mobitex networks are also under construction in Germany, Singapore, Poland, Chile and Korea. Oracle Mobile Agents costs ú335 for the developers’ package and ú295 for each users’ run-time application.