Feud brews over Web Services interoperability

All aboard - except Sun

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

A stand-off over interoperability of web services specifications is developing after Sun Microsystems Inc was denied membership of the IBM and Microsoft-backed Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization, while 50 other companies were admitted,

Gavin Clarke writes

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The WS-I told Computerwire last week Sun's application to join as a founding member has been rejected. The WS-I said current members were unwilling to change the board's structure, and Sun's application was rejected with that of 16 un-named others.

Sun chief technology evangelist Simon Phipps said his company had not yet received official notification, but called it inconceivable that Sun should be excluded from WS-I. Phipps and other executives have been angered at what they saw as Sun's eleventh hour invitation to join WS-I at February's official launch.

"Sun is profoundly interested in web services. The thought of a web services group without Sun is like having a Windows developer group without Microsoft," Phipps said.

Rejection for Sun came as the WS-I significantly expanded its membership. Fifty organizations were last week admitted, including AT&T, Cisco Systems Inc and Proctor & Gamble, taking membership to more than 100 vendors and customers. WS-I's 51 founding members include Microsoft Corp, IBM, BEA Systems Inc, Hewlett Packard Co, Intel Corp, Oracle Corp and Fujitsu Ltd.

Intel's Norbert Mikula, chairman of the WS-I's marketing and communications committee, said Sun's presence was wanted on the organization's working groups - the first of which were unveiled last week. "We will invite [Sun] to participate in the working groups, because that's where the work really happens," he said.

The WS-I last week named three working groups. The Basic Web Services Profile Working Group to identify a core set of specifications, the Sample Applications
Working Group to develop best practices, and the Test Materials and Tools Development Working Group to develop tools and testing methodologies to ensure interoperability across platforms, applications and programming languages. Mikula said working groups will meet regularly, adding the next full WS-I meeting would take place in the Fall.

Sun is unlikely to join these working groups in the near future. The company sought founding member status in a belief it could shape the organization's activities. Sun is wary over the agenda of certain members, especially IBM, who it believes will exact royalties from patented technologies which it allows to be used in the WS-I's work.

Alarm bells rang late last week when IBM notified the Organization for Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) it owned patents over elements of the Sun-backed electronic business XML (ebXML). Specifically, the patents cover Collaboration Protocol Profiles (CPPs) and Collaboration Protocol Agreements (CPAs).

IBM moved quickly to deny it planned to charge royalties over ebXML. "We are not charging for [these] patents," an IBM spokesperson told Computerwire. She added IBM would not seek to charge royalties for patented technologies used by the WS-I. "The WS-I have their own rules. It's not in our plan," she said.

WS-I also attempted to re-assure Sun. "WS-I is its own organization. The companies feel comfortable sharing their IP and collaborating," said a spokesperson.

Sun was not placated, though, and will instead work through standards groups like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). "The best way to ensure interoperability is to ensure [specifications] are really standards based. We will continue to work with the W3C," Phipps said. "When [WS-I] becomes relevant to business, maybe we will join."

Norbert was unwilling to be drawn directly on the implications for interoperability with out Sun's membership, but suggested that with 100 members WS-I would not find it difficult to make progress. "We have such a big membership already," he said.

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