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Objects, Networks, and Making Things Work
Thinking out loud, and in public...
by Jim Waldo
March 23, 2003
I'm not really used to this sort of public thinking out loud...but this could be a place to talk about how to deal with really large distributed systems.


Thinking out loud is something that I've generally done verbally, and in small groups. If nothing else, that allows me to ignore the mistakes later, or at least claim that I was misunderstood. But the sort of intellectual diary that a web log provides is both free-form and persistent. A different kind of experience, but one that can, I hope, generate more discussion with a larger community.

Most of what I think about these days (at least when I'm thinking about technical subjects) has to do with how we could build really large distributed systems. I'm not talking about the world-wide web, which is large but is also read-mostly; nor am I talking about business-to-business or business-to-customer web services. What I am thinking about are very large systems (thousands or millions of participants) with very few people in the loop. The kinds of systems that are going to be the outgrowth of the SETI at home work, or that will result from knitting together sensor networks with the rest of the world.

I'm pretty sure that one of the cores of such systems will involve moving objects, including code, around the network. Whether this is called mobile code, or active networks, or agents is irrelevant (the differences in these approaches has more to do with what the code does than the way the network is organized). But that is just the start; the other organizing principals are less well known. For example, how do mobile objects decide where they can actually run? What is security like in such a system (even more basic, who are the entities that are trusted in such a system)? How is scheduling done, or is there something different than what we would generally call scheduling that determines where and when objects are instantiated and executed?

That's what I'll ruminate about in this log...and I hope that others will ruminate with me.

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About the Blogger

Jim Waldo is a Distinguished Engineer with Sun Microsystems, where he is the lead architect for Jini, a distributed programming system based on Java. Prior to Jini, Jim worked in JavaSoft and Sun Microsystems Laboratories, where he did research in the areas of object-oriented programming and systems, distributed computing, and user environments. Before joining Sun, Jim spent eight years at Apollo Computer and Hewlett Packard working in the areas of distributed object systems, user interfaces, class libraries, text and internationalization. While at HP, he led the design and development of the first Object Request Broker, and was instrumental in getting that technology incorporated into the first OMG CORBA specification.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2003 Jim Waldo. All rights reserved.

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