Pledging to accelerate development and ensure compatibility of Web services standards, 40 companies this month formed the Web Services Interoperability Organisation (WS-I).
The consortium, led by leading platform vendors and buttressed by user companies, is seeking to stem the splintering of Web services standards as they mature to work with enterprise-class applications. Founding members include Accenture, BEA Systems, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP.
The organisation already faces significant political challenges. Notably, Sun Microsystems is yet to confirm whether it will join the organisation, and insiders are already complaining that Microsoft and IBM will dominate the group.
Both IBM and Microsoft officials confirmed that Sun has been extended an invitation to join the consortium but sidestepped the question of why the company has yet to join.
"There are legal processes everyone goes through in order to join," said Bob Sutor, IBM's director of e-business strategy.
Sun officials seemed to be closer to a decision last week. "We are currently reviewing the documentation from [WS-I] and are inclined to join. We will announce our final decision in the near future," said Marge Breya, Sun's vice president of the Sun ONE (Open Net Environment) initiative.
The charter of the group is to accelerate the development and deployment of interoperable Web services - as defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) - by offering implementation guidance and serving as advocates for the technology.
Now that the major players, most notably IBM and Microsoft, have largely agreed on the lower-level Web services standards such as XML, SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), WSDL (Web Services Description Language), and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration), IBM's Sutor said the group will seek to develop best practices where differences in interpreting the specifications could lead to breakdowns in products interoperating smoothly.
Yet it is here that executives from a few of the 40 companies involved in the WS-I have a problem. "What was surmised is that Microsoft and IBM have certain standards they want, and this is a way to get them," one source said.
Both IBM and Microsoft executives refuted such allegations, saying that no company will dominate the board.