Update: Sun Wins WS-I Board Seat

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Sun Microsystems has won a much-coveted seat on the board of the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I), according a WS-I spokeswoman.

In elections held earlier this month, the WS-I elected Mark Hapner, a Sun distinguished engineer and chief Web services strategist, to take over one of two available seats. Andy Astor, vice president of enterprise Web services at webMethods, also won a seat on the board, which now has 11 members.

Hapner received the highest number of votes in the election and will begin a two-year stint on the board beginning April 1. WebMethods' Astor, who came in No. 2 in the voting, will begin a one-year stint at the same time.

However, after the first terms of Hapner and Astor run out and new elections are held, all terms for the elected board seats will become two-year terms, the WS-I spokeswoman said. This is an effort to stagger the terms and have new board members elected on alternate years, she said.

Hapner cited Sun's efforts since joining the WS-I last year as the key reason for his election to a two-year seat on the board. "I think the work that was done by the Sun team at the WS-I,the contributions that we made since Sun joined,was one of the major factors," he said.

WS-I founding companies IBM, Microsoft, Accenture, BEA Systems, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Oracle and SAP hold the board's other nine seats. Those members are on the board for life, while the newly elected members must be re-elected to stay on the board, the spokeswoman said.

There are no term limits for the elected board seats, and any member company may vie for election or re-election as often as it wishes, she added.

The WS-I board is the executive management team for the organization, setting the direction and authorizing the formation of working groups and their output.

IBM and Microsoft led the formation of the WS-I a year ago to ensure Web services interoperate between different vendors' technologies. There are currently 166 WS-I member organizations.

Sun did not join the WS-I until late last year amid controversy that IBM and Microsoft purposely left it out of initial proceedings. One Sun source pointedly said that Microsoft and IBM were trying to "vote Sun off the island" and set the Web services standards without it, even though Sun is a major force behind the Java programming language and environment that has become critical in Web services deployments. Another said that longtime foe Microsoft was trying "to stick it to Sun" by forming the WS-I without it.

Although IBM and Microsoft compete heavily and IBM has aligned itself on the Java side of the J2EE vs .Net war, IBM and Sun have a strained relationship.

Microsoft and Sun have been foes since the early days of Java. Courts in Virginia and California are scenes for the latest battle between them,a civil antitrust lawsuit Sun brought against Microsoft in March 2002, once again over the Java platform and programming language.

However, Hapner insisted that such proceedings won't affect how the WS-I board works together moving forward.

"I think that the progress that we've made since we've joined, the contribution we've made and the way that we've been treated as part of organization has been first-rate, and I don't see that it won't continue that way as we take our position on the board," Hapner said. "I'm expecting things to go smoothly. I'm not looking for any controversy there at all. I think we just want to take up our role and be a productive member of the WS-I."

John Kiger, director of Web services marketing at BEA, one of the founding member companies of WS-I, said he, too, does not foresee any tension between board members hampering or delaying any work done by the WS-I.

"The organization was founded around the vision of interoperability and that will be achieved through collaboration that creates benefit for end users as well as for software vendors and other solution providers," he said. "We see all the members of the organization working toward achieving the interoperability and collaborating toward a common end in the organization."

Commenting on the success of the WS-I's first board election, Kiger said WS-I members are satisfied with how the proceedings unfolded.

"The process was designed such that it would be an open and fair process," Kiger said. "We're quite pleased with the way the process played out and look forward to the contributions from the Sun and webMethods directors."

The WS-I expects to release its first deliverable, the WS-I Basic Profile 1.0, by June, the WS-I spokeswoman said. Sample applications and testing tools to help companies support the Basic Profile will follow shortly thereafter.

The group also is pondering the formation of a fourth working group around Web services security but has not finalized the details. The WS-I currently has three working groups: one for the Basic Profile, one to deliver sample applications and another to provide tools for testing Web services interoperability.

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