Sun evangelist preaches software as services model

Open standards, such as Java and XML, are the driving force of an evolution in computing that focuses on software as services, a Sun Microsystems Inc. official said Wednesday during a keynote speech at the O'Reilly Conference on Enterprise Java 2001, held here.

"Shared standards make the world of the Internet possible," said Sun's Simon Phipps, chief technology evangelist at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun. Standards are enabling a move to a "world where there's one computer," which is the network itself, Phipps said, a former IBM Corp. official.

But the latest move toward standards is not one that will be governed only by standards bodies, but rather by every developer building services, Phipps said.

"I happen to believe we're moving to a third generation of standards with the participation of all the people that are creating things," Phipps said. He listed the first two so-called generations as the OSI (Open Systems Interconnect) model of the 1980s and the consortium model of the 1990s.

"Standards are not only produced from specifications but from implementations," Phipps said.

Phipps focused on what he called "swarms," which is "the idea of a service-driven network."

A services paradigm enables users to simply access services when they need them from the Internet rather than have to maintain software applications, such as a mapping program, Phipps said. Companies such as IBM and Microsoft have had similar visions about services, Phipps acknowledged.

Phipps described browser-accessible applications as "smart Web services." He criticized Microsoft's HailStorm strategy as presenting a "perverted version" of smart services, contending users would have to pay for services each time they access them via that plan.

Java, he said, will be critical to services deployment. Although thus far Java has largely been a server-based phenomenon, it will spread quickly to clients, Phipps said.

"Java is going to be all over the place, in wireless handsets," and other devices, he said.

XML will be crucial to connecting enterprises for deployment of business-to-business trading applications, Phipps said. "I'll have to find out your company API" to connect data to data, he said.

"We're headed to a world of open trading communities," Phipps said.

Phipps praised the concept of open-source software, saying, "Sun is the biggest open-source company in the world."

Open source is not just Linux, Phipps said, citing Sun's deployment of BSD Unix and its SPARC architecture as examples of Sun's openness.

Phipps added, "Java is already delivering the equivalent of open source."

But an audience member questioned Sun's openness.

"If Sun is all about this open-source stuff, why do I have to agree to a restrictive licensing agreement whenever I download something" from Sun's Java site, asked Xandy Johnson, software developer at Dulles, Va.-based software development and consulting company FGM.

Phipps responded that the only things that are not open are source code to Java Virtual Machines (JVM), libraries, and test suites. The current licensing scheme for JVMs has been in place for years and would be difficult to change right now, Phipps said.

Johnson did add that Sun has been open in allowing access to its office productivity suite and development tools.

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