IBM has turned up the heat on its JavaOS
development efforts. The company has put some of its top operating system
developers on the project, and it has set aggressive deadlines for product
delivery to market.
The Austin AITP Chapter recently
hosted Scott Winters, IBM's JavaOS Architectural Team Leader, at a local Austin
meeting where he gave an insider's look into the current progress and strategy
of IBM's JavaOS efforts. Scott's humor filled
presentation was both insightful and news worthy. He was also kind enough to
sport a tie to our event as you can see in the photo below (most of the
developers in Austin wear jeans).
Scott began his presentation by referring to a recent Information Week
article which he said actually was a "press leak". Some IBMers had thought that
Scott was the source of the leak due to our local publicity for the AITP
meeting. You can read the article Scott mentioned here: Sun Enlists IBM
For JavaOS Aid. At our meeting, Scott denied being the leak source. He also
cautioned us about the sensitive nature of his presentation, but he stated that
we were free to take notes.
In writing this feature, I have tried to be a little careful about the
items Scott highlighted as being sensitive. Everything else that Scott shared
with us, especially any new information regarding the IBM JavaOS project, I have
tried to accurately summarize in this feature.
Fat Java Clients
One of Scott's main points at the beginning of his presentation was
"why network computing?" He emphasized the difference between traditional
personal computers (which are used for many varied purposes by a single user)
compared to single purpose personal computers. Examples of single purpose
machines include point of sale PCs, bank teller PCs, order entry PCs, etc.
If a serious technical problem occurs which requires the operating
system to be reinstalled, it can take hours to reload all of the software and to
reestablish all of the unique configuration settings. Scott referred to these
settings as machine "personality".
The goal of JavaOS is to replace this single use PC "personality" with
standard applications which reside on the server. A particular machine becomes
irrelevant to a user as long as it is JavaOS enabled. All of the required
software and settings reside on a server. The applications are simply loaded to
the correct machine at boot up time based upon the role of the PC.
A Narrow Target
IBM realizes that JavaOS is not going to replace Windows. But the
company also realizes that a market is developing which will require a new OS
for these two purposes:
- Access Devices
This is the 3270 and the 5250 green screen
terminal replacement market. It is also the Unix terminal replacement market.
Millions of these green screen devices are still in use, and many of them are
connected to IBM mainframes. Scott also mentioned that another use could be
stand alone internet/intranet browsing.
- Application Devices
These would include single purpose
machines running Java applications (the bank teller example). Some utility may
exist for a PC alternative for certain data entry and data access applications.
Some companies may also want to use these Java Stations as company wide PC
replacements (Scott McNealy's vision at Sun), but Scott seemed to downplay this
idea at our meeting.
Built for Portability and
Microsoft's Windows operating system is currently written with over
six to seven million lines of code. IBM's JavaOS will come in at about one
million lines of code. JavaOS will also be able to be run on many different
processors - not just the Intel compatible variety.
The OS itself is 85% written in Java. The drivers are being written in
assembler, and some Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and API routines are being
written in C++. All of this adds up to one very fast operating system.
Once booted, the end user will actually work in the "KONA" desktop
environment which is under development by Lotus. This environment will support
plug-ins for Java business applets, the HotJava browser, 3270 and 5250 host on
demand, xwindows, and others. Scott referred to this applications stack as a
webtop or desktop.
A Wide Spanning
Scott was also kind enough to give us an overview of the scope of the
IBM effort. The Information Week article had reported that over 2,400 IBM
developers were working on the project. Scott would not confirm or deny this
number. Instead, he gave us a quick overview of the IBM development centers and
the third party development companies which are currently involved in the
development of JavaOS. Here is a summary from my notes:
This team is working on the 3270 and 5250 terminal emulation.
Rochester is focused on the network station hardware and the server hardware.
These products will probably end up being manufactured in Austin.
The home team! This group is working on the base JavaOS, the stack
integration, and the firmware.
Part of the international effort. Tokyo is working on a Just in Time
translator for Intel.
Another international team which is focused on the JDK.
The Swiss group is developing SSL and Open Card Cryptography.
Lotus has responsibility for the "KONA" Desktop and Applets.
Citrix has development responsibility for the Java ICA Client.
Out in California, Cygnus is moving forward with the compiler.
This company, also in California, is developing the XWindows interface.
Sun, the creator of JAVA, continues to work on "Luna", the JDK, and