Sun, webMethods Join WS-I Board

The standards body formed to promote harmony in the Web services sector Wednesday added Sun Microsystems and webMethods to its core board of directors.

San Francisco-based Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) said representatives from the two companies have been elected to join its nine founding members: Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, BEA, Fujitsu, Intel, Accenture, Hewlett-Packard and SAP.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun received the most votes and will serve the standard two-year term. Fairfax, Va.-based webMethods will serve a one-year term. The usual term for an elected director is 24 months with no term limits.

“This start up aberration was put in place so that we can establish a staggered election schedule where one director position is filled each year and we don’t lose two directors at the same time,” WS-I spokesperson Christian DeNike told

Even though it got the most votes, ironically Sun did not originally want to participate on the standards board. While Sun said it has always supported interoperability, WS-I’s efforts and would have no problem contributing to the group, the company previously expressed reservations about coming onboard if it could not be an equal partner, especially with the likes of rival Microsoft.

In October 2002, Sun revised its stance and joined the general membership.

Now it seems it is Microsoft who is unhappy about the direction Web services is going. The Redmond, Wash.-based firm abruptly left the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Services Choreography working group earlier this month.

Founded in 2002, WS-I is an open industry effort chartered to so that customer information can freely move across platforms, applications and programming languages. Currently, there are some 170 companies that participate under the WS-I umbrella. So far WS-I has published several draft proposals for unifying Web services protocols, including Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web services Description Language (WSDL), Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) and XML definitions for documents.

Mark Hapner, chief Web services strategist at Sun, and Andy Astor, vice president of Enterprise Web Services at webMethods will serve on the board. The terms for the two newly elected directors will begin on April 1, 2003.

“Sun’s election to the WS-I board demonstrates that there is broad industry alignment in the push to establish a set of converged and open standards for Web services,” said Hapner. “We are pleased to have the endorsement of the vendor and user community, and are determined to make a valuable contribution to this important industry effort.”

“We are honored to have been selected to the WS-I board by the companies most involved in propelling Web services into the mainstream,” said Andy Astor. “We will use our seven-year history of Web services development to contribute to the greater body of knowledge of the WS-I.”

Analysts see two different directions for the newest WS-I board members.

“Sun is definitely the Web Services underdog in the market today,” ZapThink Senior Analyst Jason Bloomberg told . “They have struggled for over a year to get their Web Services strategy (as well as their overall software strategy) on track, and there are indications with the new SunONE approach that they are moving in the right direction. With their election to the WS-I, 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.”

“WebMethods, on the other hand, is somewhat of a different story. The value proposition for the entire EAI space has been turned on its head by Web services, 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. It’s also still not clear what their position is regarding their potential intellectual property claims on SOAP 1.2. Hopefully, their election to the WS-I board will help them move forward to more important issues.”

The two new board seats were opened to its general membership after WS-I approved a change to its bylaws in October 2002. More than a dozen companies expressed interest in becoming WS-I board members including VeriSign and Cisco Systems.