Developers peer into Looking Glass possibilities

SAN FRANCISCO — A Canadian Java developer says Sun Microsystems‘ decision to share a small piece of Java source code will help it improve applications for the oil and gas market.


Realtime Corp., based in Calgary, specializes in creating man-machine interface (MMI) tools to help migrate or upgrade SCADA systems, the computers that monitor for pipeline leaks or other problems in plant equipment. Its flagship products, Myriad and Maestro, are used to convert MMIs from one SCADA system to another, and to push data from SCADA systems across the enterprise. This data, which includes anything from pipeline volumes to meter information, can be simply published to relevant users or turned into the kind of business intelligence analysis offered through products like SAP.

Joseph King, a managing partner in Catalyst’s advanced application and integration group, said the firm will be quick to adopt Project Looking Glass, a set of desktop interfaces released at Sun’s JavaOne conference earlier this week. Sun executives are heavily promoting Looking Glass, which lets a computer user manipulate windows like 3D objects, flipping them around and using the back of a window for notetaking purposes.

King said using Looking Glass could help users of Catalyst products more quickly navigate and drill down on the information in SCADA systems. Customers like Alberta Oil and Gas, for example, could shift some windows to the front of a screen to give alarm warnings greater prominence, or compare the performance of the pipeline in two different geographies.

The prefabricated Java 3D software Looking Glass uses was officially released to the open source community with great fanfare during JavaOne’s general session Monday morning. King said he was encouraged by the announcement.

“”We like to see that participation, because there’s a lot of good ideas out there in open source,”” he said. “”It’s much better than the proprietary world where you’re locked down, or someone has to change something so you’ll use it.””

Though developers like Catalyst are putting pressure on Sun to release more parts of Java into open source, Sun president and COO Jonathan Schwartz said there are still some areas where it might not be appropriate, and lead to incompatible versions of its best-known software asset.

“”When I said we were going to make Solaris open source a while ago to a bunch of developers there was euphoria,”” he said. “”People were clutching at my lapels and talking about all the opportunities. Later I spent some time talking about it to a group of CIOs and they said, ‘Why would you do that?'””

Not all customers want open source software, Schwartz added, and it was important to respect changes Sun has already made to make the Java Community Process — which sets standards for the technology — more democratic and open.

King said Catalyst has found Sun more than willing to listen to its position about open source and Java, which is one of the reasons he’s attending JavaOne this year.

“”We think what Sun’s doing is great,”” he said. “”Could they do more? They could give us some more APIs.””

JavaOne continues through Friday.

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