Sun Opts Out of IBM, Microsoft Web Services Alliance


Microsoft, IBM and a host of rival technology competitors on Wednesday said they formed an organization to work on standards to make it easier for companies share information and do business over the Web.

The anticipated news sees Microsoft and IBM coming together with a string of fierce rivals in the technology sector--including Intel, Oracle, SAP, Hewlett-Packard and Fujitsu Business Systems.

The group, called the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I), aims to provide companies with a standard way of using Web services.

The group brings together rival camps split between using Microsoft's .Net Internet technology and Java, a rival technology which was developed by Sun Microsystems.

Sun Microsystems, a bitter rival of Microsoft, was noticeably absent from the line-up. But a spokesperson said: "Sun has been and will be committed to supporting industry standards as they emerge and evolve," adding "WS-I is a good concept and bears looking into."

The organization wants to ensure that companies use the low-level technical standards--UDDI, WSDL, XML and SOAP--that govern the development of Web services in the same way, Bob Sutor, IBM's Program Director for XML Technology says.

Sutor likens it to the use of the English language. There are lots of valid ways of putting the words together to make sentences, but eventually people develop common phrases that succinctly communicate what they want to say, he says.

"The collection of standards around Web services is much the same way," Sutor says. "Once we discover the ways that people use them, it's good to call those out because this means that other people can start using them in the same way."

This isn't the first time these companies have come together under the umbrella of Web services. But the news is nevertheless significant because it signals a growing acceptance among technology sector rivals to work together.

Java and .Net offer opposing ways for developers to write their software applications, therefore forcing companies to chose between the two.

Web services are designed to overcome these incompatibility problems by wrapping those software applications in such a way that they can be used on any system, be it Java, .Net or some other type of software system.

Sun Microsystems, however, was noticeably absent from the list of companies supporting the alliance, although companies such as IBM, BEA and Oracle, which support Java, say they acknowledge that linking software applications to do business is a big issue for their customers.

"We recognize that applications built on our platform need to be interoperable with applications built on other platforms," Byron Sebastian, BEA's senior director of product management says, referring to the linking of Web services between different systems.

IBM and BEA are bitter rivals in the market for application servers, the basic software platform upon which Web services and other types of software applications are developed.

As well as working on existing standards, Sutor says the Web Services Interoperability Organization will also work with Internet standards bodies, like the World Wide Web Consortium, to ensure future Web services standards, governing such areas as security, work together.

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