IBM, BEA take royalty-free stance on BPEL4WS

Removing a potential barrier to Web services choreography standards efforts, an IBM official on Wednesday pledged that the vendor will not seek royalties for its contributions to the BPEL4WS (Business Process Execution Language for Web Services) proposal. BEA Systems, a co-author of BPEL4WS, released a statement with a similar pledge shortly thereafter.

Still remaining to be heard from is Microsoft, also a BPEL4WS co-author, pertaining to its stance on royalties related to the proposal. Bob Sutor, director of Web services strategy at Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, said he could not speak for the positions of the two co-authors of BPEL4WS pertaining to royalties.

"As far as IBM is concerned, we will license BPEL4WS on a royalty-free basis," Sutor said during a presentation at the CNet Networks "Building a Web Services Foundation" conference here.

BEA released a statement that it would submit its technologies for BPEL4WS sans royalties if the other two vendors do as well.

"BEA has been on record for a long time now advocating that all standards be royalty-free and have committed that any standard we have control over will be offered royalty-free. However, BPEL4WS is a standard backed by three companies, so all three have to agree on the royalty-free position. BEA has long pushed for it to be royalty-free -- so if IBM and Microsoft also come on board agreeing with that position, then we will of course continue to advocate it be submitted as a royalty-free standard," said San Jose, Calif.-based BEA.

Sutor cautioned that observers should not become simplistic in regards to royalty-free proposals in general. IBM, for example, could have conditions such as requiring that other vendors provide their technology royalty-free if IBM does.

Web services choreography standardization pertains to defining industrywide mechanisms and formats for interaction among Web services. An example where this would come into play would be an e-business transaction that requires multiple Web services to interact on matters such as filling orders, checking inventory, and performing credit checks, according to Sutor.

Choreography is considered a major factor in furthering use of Web services, and it is the subject of both BPEL4WS, which has yet to be submitted to an industry standards organization, and Web Services Choreography Interface, a Sun Microsystems-led proposal already under consideration by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Although the BPEL4WS authors plan to submit the plan to a standards organization, no decision has yet been made on which one, and that is not expected for a month or two, Sutor said.

"It's not obvious to me that the W3C is necessarily the best home for that," Sutor said.

He added that although W3C tends to work on low-level technologies and research areas, OASIS focuses on immediate business value. Security for Web services is being pondered by OASIS, as are portal work and development of UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration) for Web services directories.

Sutor said that security, systems management, interoperability, and reliable messaging would, along with choreography, be major development points for Web services.

"I think we're two and a half years into what I believe will be a five-year standardization process" for Web services, said Sutor.

Also during his talk, Sutor said IBM and BEA have exceeded Sun in promoting the Sun-developed Java programming language, at least in terms of market share.

"Together, I think we've done a very good job in expressing that Java is a critical technology," Sutor said.

Sutor said there is a tremendous opportunity afoot to push Java as the basis of Web services. He criticized Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun, however, for controlling the platform and urged that Java be offered in an open-source format.

"It's very difficult when a key competitor of yours has veto power over the platform," said Sutor. He would not comment on an inquiry about whether IBM would ever acquire Sun.

Contacted afterward, a Sun official rejected Sutor's contentions.

"I think history speaks for itself in terms of who brought Java out there and the work that we've done with Java worldwide," said Mark Herring, Sun director of marketing for Java Web services. He did concede that Sun has trailed BEA and IBM in terms of Java application server market share.

Herring called the open-source question "a red herring," saying there already is the Java Community Process for industry input on Java and that submitting the language to open source would leave it "fragmented and splintered."

Sutor also hailed the IBM-led Eclipse open-source development tools effort while saying the competing Sun-backed NetBeans Java tools effort was "in serious decline."

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