25 October 2002 Systems vendor Sun Microsystems is to join the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) standards organisation. This is a reversal of Sun’s previous stance that it would only join on an equal footing with WS-I board members, which include Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and BEA Systems.
Sun will join the WS-I as a contributing member. As a result, it will have less power than existing board members to influence the development of interoperability standards for web services, the new standards-based approach to application development and deployment.
The move by Sun was precipitated by the WS-I’s decision to change its by-laws, which will expand the board by two seats. Sun said it intends to run for election to this expanded board in March 2003.
IBM and Microsoft founded the WS-I in February 2002, but the two companies rejected Sun’s request to join the board. Furthermore, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is believed to have exerted his influence to minimise Sun’s involvement at the WS-I.
For example, Gates sent an email to top executives at Microsoft revealing that he approved of the company’s involvement at the WS-I – as long as Sun’s role was minimised.
One of Gates’ main concerns is that if Sun is elected to the board it could influence the direction the WS-I takes in developing web services standards. This is because Sun will aim to push the development of web services based on the Java programming language, which it invented.
In the opposing camp, Microsoft wants its .Net web services software to play a dominant role. That would help drive sales of other Microsoft products, such as its forthcoming Windows .Net Server operating system.
In addition to Sun, about a dozen other companies have expressed an interest in joining the board of the WS-I. These companies include Ariba, Cisco Systems, Iona Technologies, Novell and WebMethods.