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Sun finally gains WS-I board seat

After almost a year of trying, Sun Microsystems Inc. (http://www.sun.com) last week finally won a seat on the board of directors of the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) Organization.

Mark Hapner, Sun's lead architect for Java 3 Enterprise Edition and chief strategist for Java Web services, will represent the company by serving for two years in one of two elected positions on the organization's 11-member board. The other open seat went to Andy Astor, vice president of enterprise Web services at webMethods, who will serve for one year.

When it held its first meeting in April 2002, the WS-I (http://www.ws-i.org) boasted a charter membership of more than 100 companies. Led by IBM (http://www.ibm.com) and Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com), 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. For reasons that were hotly debated by executives from Sun and WS-I founding companies at the time, the company that invented Java -- a leading deployment platform for Web services -- was not among the consortium's charter members.

Microsoft's Bill Gates derided Sun for not joining the group. Sun countered that the founders -- two of 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 in the WS-I; regular members are allowed only one vote. Sun execs said that they were reluctant to join an organization dominated by competitors without an equal status in the group.

Last October, the WS-I announced that it would add two seats to its board. Officials of the organization said that only members would be eligible to run for election. According to some sources, IBM made the original recommendation to expand the WS-I board. Sun then announced that it would not only join the WS-I, but planned to run for election to the group's then newly expanded board.

Sun's Hapner spoke to e-ADT at a press luncheon immediately following the announcement of the election results. "When you look at the primary goal of WS-I," Hapner said, "what it's trying to accomplish is end-to-end operability. And it's doing that by looking at the set of standards that you need to get the services to talk to one another. They see their role primarily as stacking up these standards and describing a path through them that allows the applications to fully interoperate. We fully support that goal. We have a lot of experience in how to organize standards efforts, and we think we have a lot to contribute."

Sun already supports the WS-I's proposed "basic profile" specification, which was designed to ensure that Web services component technologies work together, in its Java 2 Enterprise Edition. Hapner said Sun wants to support developers by providing a means of ensuring that tools and development platforms, as well as applications, conform to the WS-I profiles.

"Developers and enterprise customers want to know that when they start their development effort they're using tools and platforms that are capable of properly supporting these conformant applications," he said.

"They don't want to get three-quarters of the way through their development cycle and discover that they're using a platform that has somehow been inserted under my application's non-conformant protocol representation. Or that they've used a tool that caused them to develop the way that they do, say, fault handling in a way that doesn't conform."

Hapner said that this was a good time to join the WS-I board because it is still in the process of making adjustments to the organization. "This is when we can have some real influence," he said. More than 150 companies have joined the WS-I since its formation last February. The group's founding membership includes Accenture, BEA Systems, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. Founding members hold permanent seats on the group's board.

Along with Hapner and Astor, the list of nominees for the two board seats included Jorgen Thelin, chief scientist at Cape Clear; Juhani Murto, senior manager of Web services architecture at Nokia; Ugo Corda, principal standards analyst at SeeBeyond; and Sundar Krishnamurthy, a product manager at VeriSign.

Sun will begin its two-year term on April 1, 2003.



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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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