WS-I to vote on Sun's fate

A consequential joust for power in Web services standards development will unfold this week with Sun Microsystems Inc. making a bid for one of two board seats being added to The Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I).

Sun's election bid is deemed significant, as the company did not participate in the February 2002 formation of WS-I after being initially denied a board seat, despite the prominence of Sun's Java programming language and platform for Web services. Sun did join last October when given the chance to run for a seat. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has participated in working groups for basic Web services profiles, sample applications, and testing.

"Sun's objective in participating in WS-I is to actively work with the industry to ensure the highest degree of interoperability possible for Web services," said Mark Hapner, Sun's WS-I representative and chief Web services strategist in Sun's Java Web services organization. "Our focus is on openness and access to the technology. We strongly support royalty-free access to these horizontal technologies."

Sun has criticized Microsoft Corp. and IBM Corp. as not fully supporting royalty-free Web services specifications.

Two seats are being added to the presently nine-member policy-making board, one to be a two-year seat and the other term expiring after a year. In addition to Sun, several companies are seeking seats, including Cape Clear Software Inc., Nokia Corp., SeeBeyond Technology Corp., VeriSign Inc., and webMethods Inc.

Ballots from the 166 member organizations can be cast from March 17 through March 21, with an announcement of the results expected on March 28. Whereas rivals Microsoft and IBM have permanent board seats, Sun's term would be subject to re-election, said Rob Cheng, marketing communications committee chairman at WS-I and an Oracle senior product manager. IBM said it is supporting Sun's bid, but Microsoft declined to comment on whether or not it will vote for Sun.

Sun's Hapner stressed that WS-I has an important role in promoting interoperability.

"The bottom line is [that] the customer wants the risk taken out of Web services. They want to be sure that when they develop Web services, they actually interoperate. It's a goal of Sun and it's a goal of WS-I," Hapner said.

If not elected to the board, Sun still plans to be a strong participant in WS-I, Hapner said.

A webMethods representative said his company's WS-I platform includes seeking participation in WS-I by more IT users. "WS-I right now is made up primarily of software vendors, and we think that it's very important that more IT organizations and just end-user companies join the WS-I to establish pragmatic requirements for Web services standards in the market," said Andy Astor, enterprise Web services vice president of Fairfax, Va.-based webMethods.

WS-I differs from standards development organizations such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) or Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) in that WS-I is intended to promote interoperability by providing guidance, recommending practices, and supporting resources for developing interoperable Web services.

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