Of all the announcements at MacWorld Expo, the most relevant to the networking world is Apple's new Rendezvous technology. This auto-IP-services discovery protocol is based on open IETF standards. The goal is to allow the computer to discover printers, file shares, instant message users and other network entities automatically, with no user intervention or configuration needed. Take a compatible printer and plug it into the LAN, and users can print to it. Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark and Epson have all said they would adopt Rendezvous.
This is not a new idea. Way back when Apple first introduced AppleTalk,
peripherals could use the protocol's chatty nature to announce available
services to locally connected devices. A printer could even broadcast a
detailed report about its workload and technical difficulties. With next
month's release of Rendezvous-enabled Mac OS X 10.2, Apple will bring this
same notion to Ethernet, AirPort 802.11, Bluetooth, FireWire and USB
networks -- and to more than merely printers.
Applications of Rendezvous will range from cute to serious -- from sharing
MP3 play lists to autodiscovery of IM names. For example, you can discover
and send IMs to anyone in a meeting or office space without altering your
buddy lists. This technology will be a godsend to remote office locations
that don't have an onsite administrator. Just plug in a network printer, and
it works. Of course, you must be using a Mac.
Because Rendezvous is based on open standards, there's a good chance you'll
see this functionality in Windows and Linux in the future. If the tech works
as shown, there is great promise and simplicity. However, some questions
linger: Will this cause a flood of broadcast traffic? How does the
technology account for privacy? How will it keep out rogue users? Will there
be support for password protection or user authentication? Finally, can this
effectively work on a network with multiple subnets and WAN links?