San Francisco Who is using the real-time Java products available today? And where is the programming language likely to go once Sun Microsystems Inc. offers its Project Mackinac which will support both real- and non-real-time Java under one umbrella as a commercial product this summer?
Two military programs a warship of the future for the Navy and a video-heavy battlefield communications scenario for the Army are now under way and implementing real-time Java, several sources said. While the Navy's DDX program
aims to develops tomorrow's warship, the Army's net-centric battlefield program links soldiers wearing helmets festooned with video cameras (and carrying other communications gear) with each other and the battlefield commanders.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has organized "a clean-room version" of the real-time specification for Java (RTSJ) that is being used in drone aircraft developed by Boeing Corp., one source said. The National Security Agency and defense contractors Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin, he said, are working closely with the RTSJ community.
Bill Beckwith, chief technology officer at Objective Interface Systems Inc. (Herndon, Va.), said two classes of real-time Java projects are under way: "real major programs, measured in the billions [of dollars], that are pushing everybody technologically" and small R&D groups in universities and corporate labs validating the technology.
Nortel Networks and Ericsson each have used real-time Java to develop telecom equipment and basestations. After benchmarking software productivity with a 60-person development team, Nortel found productivity had doubled with Java, said Kelvin Nilsen, the Tucson, Ariz.-based chief technology officer at Aonix Corp.
At a Sun-sponsored reception at the recent Embedded Systems Conference here, attendees said carmakers have expressed interest in RTSJ. The reliability of electronics software has been a sore point, particularly for high-end Mercedes-Benz cars. Automakers are coming to realize that Java-based software can be created with fewer errors than with C or C++, said Greg Bollella, the Sun distinguished engineer in charge of Project Mackinac.
"I've been to a couple of car manufacturers. They are starting to recognize that they are in the business of making distributed computing systems on four wheels," he said.
While automakers have largely perfected the manufacture of tires, engines and other traditional components, electronics subsystems present them with major reliability headaches, he said.
But implementation will depend on the release of the safety-critical real-time Java specification, which is expected to clear The Open Group in about a year. Products based on the RTSJ specification may come from the automakers two or three years after that, Bollella said.
NASA and Sun are developing RTSJ-based control software for a Mars rover that could be deployed later in this decade, according to the Sun Web site. The European Space Agency has several real-time-Java-based software development projects in the works, said Jacques Brygier, a Paris-based vice president of Aonix, which has developed the Perc real-time Java products sold in both Europe and the United States.
Fridtjof Siebert, director of development at Aicas GmbH (Karlsruhe, Germany), said that Siemens and other "real customers" in Europe's industrial automation sector have implemented real-time Java. "Another important area is aerospace, but those are trials and they are slow to commit," Siebert said, estimating that as many as 20 projects ongoing in Europe are using some form of real-time Java. Aicas has developed a clean-room version of RTSJ Jamaica Virtual Machine and a suite of development tools.