Microsoft backs WS-I expansion – with strings attached

Must be 'fair and equitable'

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

IBM's proposal to enlarge the board of a leading web services organization, granting possible admission to Sun Microsystems Inc, has received qualified support from Microsoft Corp,

Gavin Clarke writes

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Neil Charney, director of Microsof's .NET platforms strategy group, told ComputerWire his company would not oppose an IBM proposal to enlarge the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) Organization's nine-member board by two seats. Sun would stand for election to one of these seats.

However, Charney qualified Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft's support saying the proposal must be "fair and equitable."

"[A proposal] should come from members of the organization and every company should have a fair chance. There are many companies who are interested in this,' Charney said.

IBM has yet to submit a written document outlining its proposal, although a company spokesman said IBM would vote for Sun in elections. Charney said: "We want to see something specific. It's something we would like to work with IBM over, and any one else who is interested."

Charney spoke to ComputerWire after Microsoft was reported to have opposed expansion. The Microsoft executive was quoted online as saying the WS-I should instead dedicate efforts on deliverables, rather than alter its structure.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft's reason for taking this stance is mired in controversy. Palo Alto, California-based Sun claimed it was deliberately excluded from WS-I's founding line-up - which included BEA Systems Inc, Hewlett-Packard Co, IBM and Microsoft.

The mystery of Sun's exclusion appeared to be solved during the remedy phase of Microsoft's anti-trust trial this month. An e-mail written by Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates, used as evidence by non-settling states, indicated Gates favored the WS-I if it supported Microsoft's position and Sun was excluded as a founder.

Charney called the e-mail "just a snippet of something" adding an open invitation was extended to all companies. "Java is represented on the board," he said.

Instead, Charney positioned WS-I as a "standards integrator". Concern has been expressed the WS-I would become a standards body, which rivals organizations like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

These concerns are fed by the fact that few outside the WS-I have seen the organization's charter, and the charter is not available via the group's web site. Opponents who have seen the charter, claim it leaves room for WS-I to set standards.

"As we move up the [protocol] stack there will be work done [on standards]. There will be a place for a standards integrator," Charney said.

He echoed his WS-I peer at IBM, Bob Sutor, who recently told Computerwire WS-I would work with existing specifications. Sutor, IBM's director of e-business standards, said WS-I "is not going to write a brand new specification" for web services.

"There has been some FUD and some misconceptions" over WS-I, Charney said.

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