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Sun Microsystems has been elected to the board of directors of the Web Services Interoperability Organization, a move that may lessen the tension among major vendors hammering out specs for the next generation of distributed computing.
The group also elected webMethods Inc. to the board, placing the integration software vendor and Sun next to founding members IBM and Microsoft.
Sun was not invited as a founding member of the organization, which industry analysts viewed as a snub of the network-computing company. Sun later joined the group, but its elevation to the board puts it on par with competitors IBM and Microsoft.
"With their election to the WS-I board, there's a good chance some of the political wrangling surrounding Web-services specs will calm down and vendors will finally get down to business," says Jason Bloomberg, an analyst for ZapThink, a research firm that focuses on Web services and related technologies.
The WS-I board will set the group's agenda when its term begins April 1. Among the standards the organization plans to tackle are security and reliable-messaging specifications. The group has already published implementation guidelines for interoperability of several Web-services standards, including Simple Object Access Protocol; Web Services Description Language; Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration; and XML document definitions.
Mark Hapner, Sun's chief Web-service strategist, will serve the next two years on the board, while Andy Astor, webMethods' VP of enterprise Web services, will serve one year. Other board members include representatives from Accenture, BEA Systems, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Oracle, and SAP.
WebMethods' input as a board member will be particularly interesting because of the impact Web services is expected to have on enterprise application integration vendors. "The value proposition for the entire EAI space has been turned on its head by Web services," Bloomberg says. "And even though webMethods claims to have been doing Web services for seven years, it's still an open question as to whether they can drive toward a successful strategy moving forward as companies begin to adopt service-oriented architectures."
Web services is the umbrella term for a set of standards that proponents say will one day provide the building blocks for service-oriented computing architectures. Rather than building links between applications with proprietary software, Web services would provide standard interfaces for system-to-system integration over the Internet, making it possible for companies to publish application services available to customers and partners.
Companies benefit from interoperability standards in distributed computing through reduced costs in maintaining application links, a wider base of skilled developers, and more choices of vendors.
The two major Web-service platforms emerging today are Microsoft's .Net and the Java 2 enterprise platform, developed by Sun, IBM, and other major IT vendors through a Sun-created organization called the Java Community Process. From a product perspective, Sun's Web-services tools are incorporated within its Sun One software platform, while IBM has its WebSphere infrastructure products.