JDJ: Joining me from Cyrus Intersoft is Grant Wood, an engineer, and Daniel Berg, the chief technology officer. What is your involvement in the Java industry?
Berg: We're a software start-up based in Minneapolis, Minnesota; we have an Internet application platform that allows any Java-based software application and applet to be distributed anywhere. It's anytime, anywhere computing, utilizing the Internet in new ways.
We're delivering the capability to make your digital presence (e.g., your preferences, file systems, the applications you like to access most) meet up with your physical presence at any given point, any place on the Net. I could be at the airport using a kiosk, a PDA or whatever, and after making sure that whenever I go in and establish authentication, all my applications are available there, including all my file systems, security services and all the stuff that go along with providing OS-type services on the Internet.
JDJ: It seems like it's a very broad category of application servers. Would you fall under that category?
Berg: I would say no because we don't offer the same things an application server would offer as far as services to the application. What we do is provide a transparent platform on which to deploy the applications. For example, if you were to take a regular Java-based program, say a word processor, most likely you developed access to a file system (in order to read or write a file); since it's probably an application, what we can do is run that application. You click on an icon and it comes into our environment; it's a run-time environment without installation. It almost behaves like an applet - you can go to a site or to our URL, and the application starts execution.
Now when I go in there and do a file dialogue or file open, I not only see local file systems but also any remote file systems I'd have access to. We can dynamically offer some of these services to applications.
We can take applications that have been developed with multi-tiered environments that have app servers and all the different pieces of the equation, and they will still work on top of our platform as long as whatever you are deploying is Java.
JDJ: Who are some of the people who are using your technology and in what ways are they using it?
Berg: We're initially going after ISPs and service providers and giving them new ways of deploying services. We're also going after Java developers and letting them know that here is a new channel for them to deploy their application. And it's really a "no brainer." Grant could write an application and run it on a platform allowing a user to access that software from anywhere, and he doesn't have to change anything in his application. There are no APIs. It's all transparent through the VM. It offers developers new opportunities and channels.
Wood: A developer could download Speiros and log into a server somewhere that would not only give him access to an open source project that he may be working on or a project for work, but the tools he uses to develop that could be handed to him from the server as well. And those tools could be updated and changed on a daily basis.
What we have is a vehicle for doing real time deployment of software as well. As a developer, I could log into a server. I would have my files and any shared files I was working on. They could put it all on a server, and now when people login, maybe that's how they check out their software. They just click on the program, write it, compile it and they're done. You don't have to learn the way they check it out. They could be using CVS, JC...whatever they want. It's really an excellent platform for distributing, computing and development. It takes a lot of the thought out of the back end of it and allows you to hand out tools or the tools of choice to whoever is using the links.
JDJ: Two things I've always heard from Java developers that are the most important are the ease of use and speed.
Wood: Well, can you click an icon?
JDJ: That's all I really need to know. Give us a little idea of that. Tell us how it works.
Wood: You know how the Web is right now; every site is different. How do you find your way through a site? You have to claw through it. Since we're not doing content anymore only applications, we're doing things much more familiar to users. When someone turns on their cable box and it logs into a Speiros server somewhere, it gives them a little menu with icons for their applications. You didn't have to browse anywhere. You could search and say I want to see word processors, and it might bring up 50 word processors; you can click on them, get information and bring up the Web page of the guy who developed it. But all you do to launch it is double-click on it. And that could be coming from anywhere on the Web.
All you need to know is point and click - it's that simple. Now you know how to use that kiosk in the mall, that set-top box, or your MAC, it really doesn't matter. We're really delivering on the promise of Java, "write once, run anywhere." You could do that before, but now you can actually get to it anywhere. You could sit down anyplace because now your application is a full-blown application. It's out on the Net. Your files are something we deliver as well. As you login, here's your home directory and maybe you're connected to 150 different servers out there, and because your files and your applications are on the Internet, it doesn't matter where you are. You don't have to install it on your box or keep your files with you when you leave your home machine. Why would you even keep anything in a local box when you can just keep them all out on the Internet?
Berg: We have a developer's release available on our Web site, CyrusIntersoft.com, and we're looking for developers to come download it and try it out.
JDJ: Joining me right now is Martin Hardee, manager of the java.sun.com Web site. Since we're at JavaOne, tell us a little bit about the JavaOne Web site. What do you think is its coolest part?
Hardee: The JavaOne Web site is actually a subsite of java.sun.com - java.sun.com/JavaOne. I think probably the coolest thing our site does is we aspire to get the community together. You see it on the Java developer connection, and I think we've seen it at JavaOne where we have voting and things for the applications, but it is really the attendees that are building things and putting them together.
JDJ: Let's get to the Java Sun site. It looks a little different.
Hardee: We redesigned the site slightly. We thought about all sorts of radical redesigns as you always want to do. We do surveys continuously and look at all the Web feedback. We probably get thousands of comments a year. We did some remote usability tests on the phone where we'd call people in Australia or some other country and ask them to look at some mock-ups we had. We learned people really like the look of the current site. We pretty much stuck with something that looks the same, but the technology has grown so much.
Last year we did almost 250 different discrete full technology releases on the site, which is basically one every working day. There's an explosion of technology and with the Java community process there's going to be even more. We restructured things so you could find what you needed, from discussion topics to industry solutions and products. Based on the responses we've gotten so far, I think we hit the nail on the head. We'll continue to evolve it of course.
JDJ: Tell us about some of the feedback you've gotten and if it influenced your redesign?
Hardee: We've actually done a lot of these improvements incrementally. About six months ago we did a survey on the site; users said the technology has grown tremendously so they couldn't find anything anymore. The first thing we did was reorganize the products in the API's page. It was organized both by APIs and alphabetically. We also built an A-to-Z index of the important items on the site, which has been very popular. In the first week, it was one of our top 20 URLs on the site. We get about a million to two million page views a day.
The hits range is up to 6-7 million hits a day. We've also tried to marry java.sun.com and the Java developer connection subsite together for a more graceful transition. And the JDC - a few months ago you had to login for everything. We've taken a lot of that off so there's more free and easy access. We've left on login for the discussions and other things where you have to be part of the community and have to be known. But primarily we've made access to the JDC easier to find and easier to access once you get there.
JDJ: What can we expect in the future from the Web site?
Hardee: We did community source this year and have really ramped up the Java community process, which we're trying to make more of a Web-based activity. One thing I'm interested in, our site's been around for a while and while we use a lot of Java technology, including Java Web Server, parts of the site are still running Apache. We're really interested in using Java Server Pages. We're doing a lot of servlet work right now. Our commerce system and the JDC are all servlet based, so under the hood where you don't really see anything, we're definitely having a lot of fun playing with servlets and JSPs. If you have any comments, go to the feedback links, and all your comments go into a database. We read them, route them and everything else.
JDJ: You actually read them?
Hardee: Somebody has the job of reading them and figuring out where they go, which is a tough job. We track all the comments in the database and make sure they get answered.