The gizmo that makes this all possible is the Digitrax PR3Extra decoder programmer. It can be used a stand-alone decoder programmer or to allow your PC and DCC system to do the Vulcan mind meld. The latter is exactly what use it for.
What exactly does JMRI do? A whole lot things. It allows you to program decoders from your PC, allows you to use your PC or smart phone as a throttle, manage car routing during operating sessions, operate signals and manage your locomotive roster. It can also display block occupancy provided the right hardware is hooked up to your command system. The possibilities are endless. However the system does have a bit of a steep learning curve and I'm still getting the hang of parts of it.
The feature I'm most excited about is Withrottle. This app, coupled with the JMRI software allows an tablet or smartphone to function as a DCC throttle. All that's required is a wireless router and PC, which everyone has anyway. This means I don't have to spend a fortune on throttles in order to operate and thereby puts the goal of hosting my first operating session within reach.