Sun buys InfraSearch to speed P2P to market

Just weeks after its first public hints of peer-to-peer (P2P) technology aspirations, Sun Microsystems Inc. signed an agreement to acquire privately held P2P search company InfraSearch Inc.

In mid-February, Sun Chief Scientist and Co-Founder Bill Joy outlined the company's plan to develop a foundation technology for P2P communications called Juxtapose, or Jxta for short. The news came as a surprise to some, as Sun until then had not declared its interest in P2P.

With the pending InfraSearch acquisition, however, Sun now appears to be aggressively trying to position itself for the P2P wave.

InfraSearch develops search technology for P2P communications, and hence could help provide one of the basic services for Sun Jxta platform. Sun looks for the technology to make certain content much easier to find while working in a P2P environment.

In the deal announced Tuesday, Sun offered a stock-for-stock deal to InfraSearch and will have to wait for certain approvals for completion of the deal. Exact terms were not disclosed.

Joy gave only a vague outline of where Sun plans to go with Jxta. The Internet pioneer did say, however, that Sun wants it to be an open source type of project where many developers contribute to its growth. Sun will release the Jxta code under the Apache license, meaning that developers can make modifications to the code and submit the changes for others to use. At this point, Sun has said it expects Jxta to provide a relatively simple base for secure P2P interactions and transactions.

Intel Corp. executives slammed Jxta during last week's Intel Developer Forum in San Jose, California. Pat Gelsinger, chief technology officer at Intel, encouraged Sun to join other P2P coalitions that have been working for some time on their own protocols. He called Sun's Jxta "sketchy" in its details and "proprietary" by nature.

The popularity of song-swapping service Napster Inc. has sparked an intense interest in P2P among some of the IT world's largest vendors. Companies now appear to be positioning themselves to take advantage of what some are calling the computing model for the next generation of the Internet.

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