A consequential joust for power in Web services standards development will unfold this week with Sun Microsystems making a bid for one of two board seats being added to The Web Services Interoperability Organisation.
Sun's election bid is deemed significant, as the company did not participate in the February 2002 formation of WS-I after being initially denied a board seat, despite the prominence of Sun's Java programming language and platform for Web services. Sun did join last October when given the chance to run for a seat. The company has taken part in working groups for basic Web services profiles, sample applications, and testing.
"Sun's objective in participating in WS-I is to actively work with the industry to ensure the highest degree of interoperability possible for Web services," said Mark Hapner, Sun's WS-I representative and chief Web services strategist in Sun's Java Web services organisation. "Our focus is on openness and access to the technology. We strongly support royalty-free access to these horizontal technologies."
Sun has criticised Microsoft and IBM for not fully supporting royalty-free Web services specifications.
Two seats are being added to the presently nine-member policy-making board, one to be a two-year seat and the other term expiring after a year. In addition to Sun, several companies are seeking seats including Cape Clear Software, Nokia, SeeBeyond Technology, VeriSign, and webMethods.
Ballots from the 166 member organisations can be cast from March 17 through March 21. The announcement of the results is expected on March 28.
Whereas rivals Microsoft and IBM have permanent board seats, Sun's term would be subject to re-election, marketing communications committee chairman at WS-I and an Oracle senior product manager, Rob Cheng, said.
IBM said it was supporting Sun's bid, but Microsoft declined to comment on whether or not it would vote for Sun.
Hapner said that WS-I had an important role in promoting interoperability.
"The bottom line is [that] the customer wants the risk taken out of Web services," he said. "They want to be sure that when they develop Web services, they actually interoperate. It's a goal of Sun and it's a goal of WS-I."
If not elected to the board, Sun still planned to be a strong participant in WS-I, Hapner said.
A webMethods representative said his company's WS-I platform included seeking participation in WS-I by more IT users.
"WS-I right now is made up primarily of software vendors, and we think that it's very important that more IT organisations and just end-user companies join the WS-I to establish pragmatic requirements for Web services standards in the market," enterprise Web services vice-president of webMethods, Andy Astor, said.
WS-I differs from standards development organisations such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) or Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) in that WS-I is intended to promote interoperability by providing guidance, recommending practices, and supporting resources for developing interoperable Web services.