Sun updates RFID middleware stack
Sun has added new features that reflect the broader market shift from pilot-stage to larger-scale RFID deployments, but the company has taken a slightly different tack than some of its rivals.
For instance, rather than add business process management software to its middleware stack, which is the strategy for Sybase Inc, Sun has given its middleware the capability to connect directly with BPM software.
Sun Java System RFID Software version 3.0 directly integrates with SAP's Auto ID Infrastructure, or AII, product. This means Sun's middleware can now upload RFID reader data into AII. said Sam Liu, director of RFID product management at Sun.
Sybase, however, yesterday announced it had added more enterprise apps to its middleware, in order to provide a more complete stack, according to the company.
But Liu pointed out that Sun has its own business process application also, thanks to its acquisition of SeeBeyond, called Java Composite Application Platform Suite, which can also be integrated into the Sun stack.
"We thought it was important to keep the middleware light and easy to manage and deal with," Liu said.
Sun does not have an exclusive relationship with SAP for the integration, but Liu pointed out that version 3.0 has been SAP certified.
Another notable feature of version 3.0 is that a portion of the middleware can be ported onto small-footprint RFID system devices.
"You can create a smart device, where you either have a reader or edge controller that can pre-process information from RFID tags before it hits the network," Liu said.
Previously, Sun's middleware could be ported onto larger devices, such as stationery RFID readers. Now, the software can be ported onto low-end or handheld RFID readers or edge controllers, he said.
The new middleware also can support and manage groups of distributed networks of devices. For example, several enterprise warehouses, which may have dozens of RFID readers at each location, may now be centrally managed by a single operator.
Each regional center would still be able to control their warehouse environment, but overall control may be delegated to a centralized operator, Liu said.
These features reflect how the implementation of RFID is changing in the broader market, Liu said, "in that more of it is being pushed back into the enterprise ... and pushed further out to the edge of the network."
In other words, more RFID data is being collected and managed at the edge of an enterprise's network, such as in the warehouse. And that data is then increasingly being integrated into internal business management systems.
The updated middleware also promises to reduce deployment and management costs, Liu said. For example, having the software loaded onto a broader range of RFID reader devices, which makes them "smart" devices, means there is less of a need for more traditional enterprise software in the warehouse.
This is particularly useful in warehouse environments where there often is fewer technical skills available to install and manage a separate IT program, Liu said. "It allows customers to deploy the software more easily by lower-skilled people and requires less management overhead," he said.
Customers for the new Sun middleware include Samsung, which also already uses the previous version 2.0 update that was launched last May, Liu said.