A number of companies already have products available using the OSGi specification, including 4DhomeNet, Echelon, Espial, Gatespace, IBM, P&S DataCom, ProSyst, and Sun Microsystems. Most of these are in the remote management, provisioning and diagnosis, service delivery, telematics, and value-added applications spaces. Developer kits are now available from many of these companies as well.

HomeToys Interview

Dr. John Barr | OSGi

HomeToys Interview
Dr. John Barr - OSGi President

A number of companies already have products available using the OSGi specification, including 4DhomeNet, Echelon, Espial, Gatespace, IBM, P&S DataCom, ProSyst, and Sun Microsystems. Most of these are in the remote management, provisioning and diagnosis, service delivery, telematics, and value-added applications spaces. Developer kits are now available from many of these companies as well.

1) We hear that OSGi is doing really well for in-vehicle telematics. Can you tell us how it's going to be used and who's adopting it?

The Acunia Open Telematics Framework is a management framework for service provisioning that allows the service aggregator to manage and control the business of delivering value-added services to customers via terminals using the OSGi service platform. ProSyst has several telematics/logistics and infotainment/navigation projects including one with Bombardier for the New Jersey Transit system. Pilotfish and Gatespace are collaborating on a car-sharing project utilizing the OSGi in-vehicle gateway where the mobile phone replaces the car key, facilitating the administration of rental cars so that rental companies can automate car rental pick-ups. DaimlerChrysler, Jentro and Sun have created the first UMTS test vehicle as a pilot showcase to demonstrate services on demand; Acunia is using the OSGi platform for GM OnStar Europe; Motorola and IBM are working with Audi; AMI-C is working with Acunia on engineering proof of concepts for the OSGi APIs that will be adopted in AMI-C release 2; BMW based their Connected Drive X5 concept car on OSGi; and Gatespace is working with Volvo. So there's a great deal going on right now, and some prototypes out there. Presentations from many of the major automotive OEMs are being prepared for the OSGi World Congress in September (http://www.osgiworldcongress.com).

2) Wasn't the early market supposed to be Home Gateways? What happened to those?

Home Gateways are still very much part of the OSGi program, and we're starting to see people do some really cool things with OSGi in the home space, such as the Telia Home Networking trial and the E2-Home apartments in Stockholm, but interest in Telematics has grown much faster than we expected and people actually want to start using OSGi in vehicles very soon now, so we have moved a little to emphasize the Telematics angle. However, companies like Whirlpool, Bosch-Siemens-Hausgeräte (BSH), Alleato, Ciaolab, Metavector, Echelon and others are developing home solutions utilizing the OSGi service platform. In Europe we are seeing a growing acceptance of the OSGi service platform in projects like E-Pasta, Telefonicas' Hogard.es, and EdF's M@jordom project in addition to the telematics projects like ERTICO 3GT. (See www.osgi.org/fact-sheet.pdf for more on these projects.)

3) You're having your first World Congress at the end of September - what do you expect to be the highlights there?

We've got an impressive list of speakers including Claes Nycander, President of Telia Research; Per Ljunggren, CEO, E2Home; and Dr. Matthias Stümpfle, Head of Telematics Architectures & Vehicle Services, DaimlerChrysler. We'll show a number of deployments for in-vehicle entertainment and information services from Audi, BMW, Ford, Volvo and WirelessCar; home network services; and smart handheld devices. We'll have progress reports on commercially compelling OSGi implementations from a wide variety of organizations including Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Telia, Telefonica de España, and Electricité de France.

We'll have discussions about the advantages of the OSGi framework in product implementations by companies such as Echelon, MetaVector-Siemens, Philips, Bosch and Siemens Hausgeräte, Possio, and Whirlpool. Consortia such as Universal Plug and Play (UpnP), Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB), ERTICO, and AMI-C will talk about how they are working with OSGi on standardization.

Certified OSGi Service Platform Release 2 implementations will be reviewed to help developers select the platform and development environment best suited for their applications. There will also be a comprehensive OSGi service bundle development tutorial by Peter Kriens, OSGi Technology Director, that will show attendees how quickly they can develop compelling solutions for their customers.

Finally, we're also holding a contest, giving out two inaugural awards to recognize excellence in the area of OSGi bundle development and OSGi application development. So we've got a lot going on, and a lot of information to share.

4) What does the future look like for OSGi?

The future for OSGi is really bright - we've got lot of other groups who are wanting to work with us and the 'Open' in our name is really encouraging folks to do so. With OSGi Service Platform Release 2 (www.osgi.org/specification) and the OSGi compliance program (www.osgi.org/compliance), companies are able to make product plans based on a well-known platform available from multiple vendors. With the product development lead times associated with the introduction of new platforms we are seeing product introductions and deployments as expected even with the current industry downturn (www.osgi.org/fact-sheet.pdf).

We've only had our compliance program running for a couple of months and already we've got four companies with products that are certified compliant, with more lining up. And AMI-C is announcing that it is incorporating OSGi technology as the underlying framework of its software platform for mobile information and entertainment systems.

Even through these uncertain economic times, our membership is reasonably steady, and the interest continues.

5) How does OSGi compare to .NET? Is .net a copy?

A long answer to this one, I'm afraid. .NET is a big subject and so it deserves some detailed attention. The credibility that .NET gives to the concept of the delivery of networked services is good for OSGi. It shows that the goals we had when we started in 1998 are now being considered vital by the major players in the market. Many of the features of the Java application model are present in .NET products.

When .NET becomes real there will be an interesting competition for design wins between .NET and Java-based solutions. The few existing parts of .NET are concentrating on J2EE, but the labeling of existing embedded products (like good old WinCE) as a .NET component indicates that Microsoft also wants to move into the embedded space. I think that Microsoft will find resistance from these markets in that space, since Java solutions have a very strong position in this market.

But .NET will obviously be an important aspect of modern computing. Fortunately, one of the cornerstones of .NET is Web Services. The nature of these services is that they can be used and implemented both on .NET and OSGi.

So here are the major technical differences between a Java platform such as OSGi and .NET:

1. Maturity - The Java programming language has been around for 7 years; is supported by every OS/Hardware combination in the world; has an incredibly large, non-proprietary code base, and is implemented by different vendors. Parts of .NET are also mature because they are based on the existing Active-X/COM/OLE code. However, those are exactly the parts where there are no benefits in using .NET because it is legacy code. The OSGi Service Platform has been developed by several of the leading Java software solution provides and benefits from the experience of some of the best embedded solution developers.

2. Single language - Microsoft claims that they support multiple languages on their VM. They do, but these languages differ significantly from their origin. E.g. C++ in .NET does not support multiple inheritance! Second, a language is not restricted to its syntax. The runtime is at least as important. It will be prohibitively expensive to support the native runtime of these languages on smaller machines which makes only C# a viable language for .NET. So there will be no source code compatibility, nor will a company be able to leverage its experienced programmers by letting them program in their preferred language.

3. Portability - The CLR environment is basically the same concept as the Java runtime environment and thus has the advantages of easy porting to new environments. However, the advantage of .NET lies currently in their integration with the Active-X/COM/OLE, a technology that has proved to very hard to port. This will improve when more VM code becomes available but it will take a significant amount of time, effort and problems.

4. Market share - Java solutions have been adopted very widely by almost every computing area except the desktop. Telephones, PDAs, set-top boxes, DVB, cars, and residential gateways have adopted the Java standard and are target areas for the OSGi.

5. Size - Java implementations have gone through an amazing evolution and today it is possible to run OSGi in less than a megabyte. I do not expect .NET solutions to ever get close because they have too much coupling to optimize that drastically.

6. Service Management - The management of the networked services is crucial. .NET promises to provide a concrete solution with SMS and Active Directory. In contrast, OSGi provides a very comprehensive management model that is policy free so it can be adapted to a wide range of needs by different vendors. I think this is crucial for the deployment of services to areas other than the desktop.

7. Multi Vendor - There are several certified OSGi service platform providers providing solutions on multiple hardware and operating system platforms.

Microsoft has a long way before they can demonstrate all the benefits they claim today. Obviously, they will play a major role in enterprise computing because of their ownership of the desktop market. For the coming wave of pervasive computing devices, our home turf, I doubt that they will make a big inroad in that market (as can be seen in the car market). The momentum of Java/OSGi is tremendous. Most companies realize that it is better to have an existing, open, broadly supported, standard for networked services today than a proprietary solution tomorrow. Anyway, due to SOAP we will be able to interwork in whatever area they emerge in the future.

6) Can you give us some examples of where OSGi is deployed and is already making a difference?

A number of companies already have products available using the OSGi specification, including 4DhomeNet, Echelon, Espial, Gatespace, IBM, P&S DataCom, ProSyst, and Sun Microsystems. Most of these are in the remote management, provisioning and diagnosis, service delivery, telematics, and value-added applications spaces. Developer kits are now available from many of these companies as well. The New Jersey Transit locomotives from Bombardier, the Telia Home Networking trial, Whirlpool's I-enabled appliances, BSH's Smart@Home kitchen product line, E2-Home apartments in Stockholm, and the DaimlerChrysler UMTS test vehicle are but a vew high profile examples of OSGi deployments that are currently or soon to be available. The OSGi fact sheet (www.osgi.org/fact-sheet.pdf) contains specifics on a large number of products and solutions using the OSGi service platform specification.

John Barr is President of the Open Services Gateway Initiative and Director of Standards Realization for Motorola Corporate Offices. He has been with Motorola for 18 years working on real-time distributed systems, low power system and software technologies, DSP development methodologies, home networking systems, and the convergence of computing and communications. In his present role, he is responsible for directing service delivery and wireless consumer multimedia standards efforts within Motorola and strategic relationships with consortia (e.g., OSGi) and standards development groups (e.g., IEEE and IETF) to ensure that Motorola incorporates technologies that fundamentally change the way people communicate and interact while mobile, at home, and when using their vehicles.

John has a Ph.D. from UCLA and previously was a staff engineer at Hughes Aircraft and a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Montana. He has been the President of the Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGi) since its founding in May 1999, and he chairs the High-Rate WPAN task group of the IEEE 802.15 WPAN working group.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of HomeToys

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