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Sun joins WS-I, plans to seek board seat

When it held its first meeting last April, the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) boasted a charter membership of more than 100 companies. Led by IBM and Microsoft, it was the first industry group formed to promote Web services interoperability across platforms, applications and programming languages.

Conspicuously absent from that founding roster was Sun Microsystems. For reasons that were hotly debated at the time, the company that invented Java, a leading deployment platform for Web services, was not among the consortium's charter members.

Last week, Sun (http://www.sun.com) formally disclosed that it would not only finally join the WS-I (http://www.ws-i.org), but that it plans to run for election to the organization's newly expanded board in March 2003.

''With over 20 years of experience in network computing innovation and open standards development,'' the company said in a statement, ''Sun plans to play an active role in WS-I technology guideline areas.''

The WS-I was formed in February, and Microsoft's Bill Gates derided Sun at the time for not joining the group. Sun countered that founders IBM (http://www.ibm.com) and Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com) -- two its biggest competitors -- snubbed the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company by asking Sun to participate as a regular member, but not as a board member. Board members have more influence in the decision-making process of the WS-I; regular members are allowed only one vote. Sun execs said they were reluctant to join an organization dominated by competitors without an equal status in the group.

''If you ask anyone in the industry who the [Web services] thought leaders are,'' Sun's chief technology evangelist, Simon Phipps, told eADT at the time, ''they will say Microsoft, IBM and Sun.'' Joining the WS-I as a regular member ''doesn't reflect our status as thought leaders in the Web services industry,'' Phipps added.

Mark Herring, Sun's senior director for Java Web Services, told eADT that his company has received requests from ''many parties'' to participate in the WS-I. ''The new board member positions allowed us to reconsider our original stance and join the organization,'' he said.

The WS-I announced that it would add two seats to its board earlier this month. Officials of the organization said that only members would be eligible to run for election. According to unconfirmed reports, it was IBM that made the original recommendation to open the WS-I board, and IBM's director of Web services strategy, conceded to eADT at the time that the move was designed to bring Sun into the fold.

Nominations for the new WS-I board seats will be accepted between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15, 2003. Elections will be held in March, and the new directors will fill their seats in April. More than 150 companies have joined WS-I since February 2002.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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