Sun Evangelist Questions Standards Process

Sun's Simon Phipps said the standards bodies seem to have turned into a method for leading companies to promote their own agenda and commercial position.

BOSTON – Sun Microsystems Inc. voiced its concerns about joining a newly formed, widely backed Web services interoperability organization, at a lively session at Harvard Business School here today.

Simon Phipps, chief technology evangelist at Sun, took exception to a seemingly friendly jab by a fellow panelist during a session concerning Web services and asked why Sun had been invited so late to the party.

Steven Lewis, general manager of .NET at Sun rival Microsoft Corp., seated to the left of Phipps, jokingly asked him: "So, when is Sun going to join the Web Services Interoperability group?"

Phipps responded: "I want to know why we got the invite a day before the activity?"

At that point the heat was on and the packed room of prospective Harvard MBAs seemed to wake up and buzz after what had been a rather subdued session.

Phipps said the standards bodies seem to have turned into a method for leading companies to promote their own agenda and commercial position.

Phipps added: "I have noticed that there is a lot more political interplay with these standards bodies… Theres a great deal of political pressure and game playing…done under the veneer of interoperability."

As evidence, Phipps said: "Take UDDI [Universal Description, Discovery and Integration], for example…it was done in a very stealthy way."

IBM and Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., spearheaded an effort last Wednesday to form a group called the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization to promote standards for Web services interoperability. WS-I will produce tests and give guidance on Web services interoperability. Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., has been a leader in the Web services space with its Sun ONE [Open Network Environment] architecture.

Bob Sutor, director of ebusiness standards strategy for Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, said some issues of clerical miscommunication were involved in the situation with Sun.

Of Suns hold out so far from joining the group, Sutor told eWEEK: "[The invitation is] not an issue. I will send follow-up emails and continue to work with them. Its going to blow over. I hope they will join. The nature of putting together an organization with 55 companies and trying to schedule time to talk to 55 companies is very difficult of its nature. And people, if theyre not the first one or two called sometimes they get… But anecdotally, let me tell you, I thought that when we launched this thing if we had 30 going out the door Id be really happy."

For his part, Phipps said Sun has still not decided whether it will join. The WS-I group "has some merit and were still investigating it," Phipps told eWEEK. "We havent been aware of it for very long."

In addition, Phipps said the fact that Sun was not invited until very late in the game "isnt an issue, its a matter of practicality. And when we finish looking at the articles of membership and the membership fees and the governing structure then well be able to make a decision."