October 10, 2002

Ukrainian P2P project goes Open Source

Author: JT Smith

-By Anne Zieger -

While Sun's P2P-oriented Project JXTA gets most of the attention, it's not the only effort nursing along a portable P2P approach for multiple devices. A much smaller effort, a mobile P2P protocol created by Ukrainian developers, is covering at least some of the ground embraced by JXTA.

One of Ukraine's few Open Source development projects, Project Rocky Road, began as a project enabling instant messaging for corporate systems and blossomed into a technology designed for any and all peer to peer exchange.

"We are not trying to be as sophisticated as JXTA, but rather trying to maintain a base sufficient for everything from a cell phone to a supercomputer," says Vadim Martysh, the project's chief researcher.

Rocky Road has largely been developed in the traditional commercial manner. Project architects Martysh and colleague Andy Peptiouk work for Kiev-based Offshore Algorithms Co., which is backing the effort.

The original Rocky Road implementation was created by seven professional developers working for Offshore over the course of about nine months.

Rocky Road is currently available for use under the Free BSD license; the only limitation imposed by the license is that companies must not call their end product Rocky Road if they modify the code.

"We can't afford to support an Open Source project that just supports GPL software and nothing but that. For one thing, we don't have enough money," Martysh says. "We expect to make money off of other applications that use Rocky Road or consulting on Rocky Road."

The Rocky Road API allows data transfer between clients on different platforms, targeting a range of devices including enterprise server/mainframe platforms, PCs, PDAs and smart phones. Any device that has a Java Virtual Machine available for it is supported by Rocky Road.

The current implementation currently comes in two flavors, a Standard and a Micro edition. The Micro edition core requires 20 to 40 KB of RAM (PalmOS 3.5/J9 MIDP/CLDC ) and the Standard calls for 50 to 100 KB of RAM.

The impetus for the Micro edition came out of Offshore's commercial project work. "We had a potential customer who wanted an application which had clients on the PalmOS-based devices," Martysh says.

While deals are still elusive, Martysh says he's been in talks with large firms like Nokia and TogetherSoft, along with some smaller players. For example, Martysh recently sent Nokia its file sharing application for Nokia's SL-45 phones, and is currently "waiting for their reaction." TogetherSoft, meanwhile, may include an option to plug in the Rocky Road IDE as part of its next major release.

Perhaps the hardest problem the project has had to face is convincing a larger group of developers to participate. While JXTA participants have committed to hundreds of projects using the technology -- including JXTA sub-project JXME, aimed at mobile devices -- Rocky Road has had to struggle to attract more than a handful of developers to the game.

In theory, the project's Slavic headquarters shouldn't be a factor. Rocky Road's small crew of programmers don't make a big deal of their Kiev location, and could easily be mistaken for Silicon Valley expatriates. Martysh, for one, speaks fluent, idiomatic English laden with American programmer-culture expressions, though he's never lived in the United States.

Still, their Ukrainian location does make them somewhat unique; aside from a couple of Linux distributions, large-scale Open Source projects are largely absent in the former Soviet Union. While the project is inherently international, the lack of local Open Source culture there is something of a drawback, Martysh admits.

"It's still a little cathedral with a low amount of developers," Martysh says. "We're looking for people to start using Rocky Road."

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