SunSoft announces Java toolkit, JavaOS

Hoping to appeal to government network administrators and others who work within hard-to-integrate heterogeneous environments, SunSoft Inc. last week announced a Java-based toolkit for developing platform-independent network management tools.

SunSoft, a Sun Microsystems Inc. subsidiary, also unveiled JavaOS, designed to run the Java-based applications on language on a range hardware devices. SunSoft made the announcements at JavaOne, a Java developers conference held in San Francisco.

SunSoft's moves are designed to broaden the popularity of Java, a software language that has seen increasing interest in the federal sector. NASA, the National Library of Medicine and the Internal Revenue Service have developed Java-based applications, and other agencies are looking into its use.

The Java toolkit, called Solstice Workshop, will provide a way for developers to build network management tools that operate across platforms. In current network management systems, "administrators and network managers have had to go through one [network management] application and quit that application and go into another," said Mary Slocum, product line manager for enterprise network products at SunSoft. "Now they'll be able to go through one application without coming in and going out of several different interfaces." Management tools written in Java can share data and objects among different platforms, Slocum said.

Also at the conference, JavaSoft Inc., an operating company of Sun, announced an initiative to develop a series of open application programming interfaces written in Java. Developers can use the APIs to create Java applets from common components.

Solstice WorkShop will combine a Java network management API, JavaSoft's Java developers kit, a relational database and a browser-based interface for developers to use. The Workshop is expected to be released next fall.

JavaOS, meanwhile, has won the endorsement of a number of vendors. Companies including Borland International Inc. and Symantec Corp. have stated an intention to build tools or applications for the JavaOS platform.

And National Semiconductor and Sun Microelectronics have announced plans to implement JavaOS on their microprocessors.

Recently, Sun announced an agreement with Northern Telecom to incorporate Java-powered chips into future Northern Telecom telephones. The announcement essentially means that users could access data - from graphics to text to audio - via the Internet using a telephone.

Because JavaOS is very compact, it is easily integrated with a variety of microprocessors, according to JavaSoft. JavaOS, the HotJava Browser and World Wide Web content the user chooses to download require only 3M of ROM and 4M of RAM.

"The JavaOS is going to give us a Java environment running on devices pretty much everywhere," said Chuck Otts, enterprise computing consultant with Sun Microsystems Inc. "And that's the whole idea behind all of this - Java everywhere."

"JavaOS is a very small footprint OS that is capable of running Java and little else," said Larry Jackson, a computer scientist and technical manager at the National Science Foundation's National Center for Supercomputing Applications. "It allows small stuff, like appliances and handheld pagers, to run Java.

"It could displace other [operating systems], but there are no applications comparable to those of the established OSes right now," Jackson said.

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