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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Sun Microsystems Inc has joined an IBM Corp and Microsoft Corp-backed web services body, potentially drawing to a close months of hostility over standards and specifications,

writes Gavin Clarke.

Santa Clara, California-based Sun said yesterday it has joined the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization, a move that qualifies the company for election to that organization's board. Elections are scheduled for next March.

Sun said its decision to join came at the request of WS-I members, analysts and press. The company believes it has a useful role to play as a WS-I board member by aligning WS-I's work with that of numerous standards committees and the Java platform.

"We feel Sun's expertise and knowledge makes it vital for us to participate as a board member," said Ed Julson, Sun's group marketing manager for web services standards technology.

Sun has been compelled to join in order to qualify as a candidate for the election. But the decision could mark the beginning of the end of a particularly acrimonious chapter in the relatively civilized world of web services.

The company initiated its campaign to become a board member earlier this year, after the WS-I was founded, without Sun, in February by 50 organizations. The company called its exclusion "inconceivable", while Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft stated it could see no need to expand the board - and thereby admit Sun.

However, evidence later emerged in Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft's anti-trust case that appeared to indicate the company supported Sun's exclusion.

Things worsened in April, when Sun cast doubts over the agenda of certain WS-I members - especially IBM. Sun believed IBM would exact royalties from patented technologies that it allowed to be used in the WS-I's work.

Alarm bells rang 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).

IBM yesterday confirmed an earlier commitment, made to ComputerWire, that it would vote for Sun in next year's elections. A spokesperson for IBM said Sun has "a lot to contribute, from the Java point of view."

Old suspicions linger, though. Julson said Sun would continue to support the principle of royalty free web services standards from inside WS-I. As a board member, Sun will also have a say over WS-I's strategic direction.

Julson said Sun could help align the work of various standards committees like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) with planned WS-I profiles and the Java platform. WS-I profiles are expected to define how standards interoperate.

He also ruled out any possibility Sun would fail to be elected, despite the fact 11 companies are believed to have also expressed an interested in board seats.

© Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.

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