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Getting Started with JXTA, Part 2

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JXTA in a Nutshell
By Scott Oaks, Bernard Traversat, Li Gong

by Scott Oaks, Bernard Traversat and Li Gong

In part two of this series of book excerpts on getting started with JXTA, from JXTA in a Nutshell, learn about peergroups and discovery, which are important for understanding peer-to-peer Web services.


Peers self-organize into groups. JXTA does not define what these groups are, nor why they exist: the JXTA framework supports the creation of groups and the definition of group membership, but it is up to cooperating peers to define groups, join groups, and leave groups. Among other purposes, peergroups serve to:

  • Define a set of services and resources

    In order to participate in an auction, a peer must find a JXTA peergroup that provides an auction service. The peer must join that group; only peers that have joined the group can use the services available in the group.

    There are a number of important resources that exist within each peergroup. A service is a specific type of JXTA resource. A peer that wants to use the resources of a particular peergroup must join that peergroup. Similarly, peers can communicate only with each other if they have joined the same group (although, as we'll see, all peers belong to the NetPeerGroup, so they can always communicate with each other).

  • Provide a secure region

    In This Series

    Getting Started with JXTA, Part 5
    In this fifth and final excerpt on getting started with JXTA from JXTA in a Nutshell, learn about advertisements: structured XML documents for JXTA infrastructure.

    Getting Started with JXTA, Part 4
    In part four in this series of book excerpts from JXTA in a Nutshell, learn about JXTA pipes.

    Getting Started with JXTA, Part 3
    In part three in this series of excerpts from JXTA in a Nutshell, learn how to configure a JXTA application.

    Getting Started with JXTA, Part 1
    In part one in this series of excerpts from JXTA in a Nutshell, learn about setting up the JXTA Java environment as well as JXTA class files, shells, and peers.

    Because of their membership requirement, peergroups form an entity with a logical boundary. Peergroups may strongly enforce a membership requirement so that the boundaries define a secure environment as well: content within a peergroup can be accessed only by peers belonging to that group, so a peergroup with strict membership requirements can secure its content from the rest of the world.

    The underlying network topologies of peers within a peergroup do not necessarily reflect physical network boundaries, such as those imposed by routers and firewalls. A peergroup can consist of peers on completely disparate networks. Peergroups virtualize the notion of routers and firewalls, subdividing the network in secure regions without respect to actual physical network boundaries.

  • Create scoping

    Peergroups are typically formed and self-organized based on the mutual interest of peers. No particular rules are imposed on how peergroups are formed. Peers with the same interests tend to join the same peergroups. Therefore, the abstract regions defined by a peergroup provide an implicit scoping mechanism for peergroup operations. Peergroup boundaries delimit the search horizon when looking for peergroup resources. Peergroup scopes help scalability by reducing network traffic explosion within the JXTA network. Messages within a peergroup are propagated only to peers that are members of the peergroup.

  • Create a monitoring environment

    Peergroups enable peers to monitor members, interactions (traffic introspection, accountability, traceability, etc.).

The JXTA platform defines two kinds of peergroups:

1. The NetPeerGroup
This is the default peergroup a peer joins after booting the JXTA network; it is sometimes called the World Peergroup. Configuration of the NetPeerGroup is typically done by the administrator in charge of the network domain on which the peer is located. The NetPeerGroup defines the initial scope of operations of a peer and the default services it provides.

2. User peergroups
Users (and applications) can create new peergroups with their own set of customized services and membership policies. User peergroup services are created by either cloning and extending the NetPeerGroup services or by creating new ones. All user peergroups are subsets of the NetPeerGroup.

All peers are automatically members of the NetPeerGroup peergroup; they do not need to take any special actions to join the group, and they cannot leave the group. Peers may opt to join and leave other groups at will. In order to join a group, a peer must discover the group and then ask to join it. Depending on the group, the peer may have to present authentication credentials, and the group will vote on the peer's application.

Let's see how this all works in the context of the shell. When the shell starts, it automatically joins the NetPeerGroup. One way that you can find the group that a shell belongs to is with the whoami -g command:

JXTA>whoami -g
<Description>NetPeerGroup by default</Description>

Any peer can create a peergroup. Peergroups are typically composed of peers that have either a common set of interests (e.g., music or baseball peergroups) or that interact with each other to exchange contents.

Peergroup Services

Peergroups allow us to introduce the notion of protocols and services in the JXTA platform. A peergroup provides a set of services that peers can utilize. The JXTA platform defines seven core services:

  • Discovery service
  • Membership service
  • Access service
  • Pipe service
  • Resolver service
  • Monitoring service (sometimes called the "purines" service)
  • Rendezvous service

This set of core services is used to "seed" the peer so it can discover and find enough resources to support itself. The NetPeerGroup services provide sufficient functionality for allowing this dynamic bootstrapping mechanism. The core services were selected to enable a peer to have enough functionality to create and join a large variety of peergroups:

  • The membership service is necessary to enforce a policy for new peers to join a peergroup.
  • The discovery service is necessary for a peer to discover new network resources (so a peer can expand its capabilities).
  • The resolver service provides the essential infrastructure for services to communicate.
  • The pipe service provides the ability for one or more peers to exchange messages.

User peergroups can extend, replace, or add new services, allowing a variety of peergroups to be created.

A peergroup does not need to provide all of these services; it can provide only those that are necessary to support the peers within the group. Most peergroups, however, will provide at least a membership service. Since peers are always members of the NetPeerGroup, they can always obtain these services from the NetPeerGroup.

The NetPeerGroup provides all seven of these services. In general, each of these services defines a specific protocol used to access the service.

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