Sun Joins Web Services Group

By Michael Singer

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Sun Microsystems Thursday said it will join the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) after all, as a contributing member.

Founded earlier this year, WS-I is an open industry effort chartered to promote harmony in the Web services sector so that customer information can freely move across platforms, applications and programming languages.

The decision by the Palo Alto, Calif.-based networking giant reverses its prior stance on joining the standards board. While Sun has always supported WS-I's efforts and would have no problem contributing to the group, the company previously expressed reservations about coming onboard if it could not be an equal partner, especially with the likes of rival Microsoft.

Last week, the WS-I membership approved a change to its bylaws that will expand the WS-I board by two seats. Sun said it intends to run for election for this expanded board in March 2003.

San Francisco-based WS-I said it is creating the positions in response to early requests for equal representation outside of WS-I's nine founding companies: Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, BEA, Fujitsu, Intel, Accenture, Hewlett-Packard, and SAP. Currently, there are some 150 under the WS-I umbrella.

More than a dozen companies have already expressed interest in becoming WS-I board members including VeriSign and Cisco Systems.

Now, Sun said it plans to play an active role in WS-I technology guideline areas, including key foundational work currently being developed under the Web services Basic Profile.

"Our joining WS-I is very complimentary in the process of building standards," Sun Group Marketing Manager for Web Services and Standards Ed Julson told internetnews.com. " We've had a lot of requests from our customers and companies on the WS-I board. People want to see Sun involved with this project."

Julson said that Sun has not yet named any managers or executives to head the company's entry into WS-I.

Sun said its Web services interoperability contributions have come in other forums as well, such as SOAPbuilders and the Java Community Process. Sun recently hosted Round 5 of SOAPbuilders interoperability tests, in which Apache, BEA, IBM, Microsoft and others participated.

WS-I has said the new elected board seats have the same rights and responsibilities as all the current board members. There are no term limits and companies can nominate themselves and be re-elected. The board is staggering the two-year terms to help alternate the positions. The company that receives the most votes will be elected to a two-year term. The runner up will get a one-year term and is eligible to run again in 2004.

To be eligible to run for the board position, a company must be a WS-I contributing member in good standing for 90 days before the election - November 15. Nominations will be accepted beginning January 1, 2003 and must be received no later than February 15, 2003. Any company interested in running for board election will need to join the organization and participate in its work.

However, the road to establishing Web services will be a long one, according to a report by analyst firm IDC that said the ultimate promise of Web services is still at least 10 years away.

Similar findings from Jupiter Research (a unit of this site's corporate parent) says Web services is also in danger of losing relevance because companies are increasingly referring to any messaging-oriented, Internet-based architecture as Web services.