Sun, Microsoft Meet on SOAs

The companies team to form a grass-roots group to spur adoption of service-oriented architectures.

Despite signals that the cooperation following the settlement between Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. would initially focus on identity management, it appears the first signs of thaw are coming from the Web services arena.

In addition to an announcement earlier this month that the two companies had teamed to bridge a gap on a Web services messaging specification, Web Services-Addressing, a Microsoft architect has reached out to Sun to form a grass-roots standards group. The result could bring temporary relief to companies looking to map out SOAs (service-oriented architectures).

The so-called Redwood Group was spawned from an IMS Global Learning Consortium Inc. meeting held in late July in Redwood Shores, Calif. At the meeting, developers from both companies decided to try to set some basic rules of engagement for Web services, starting with educational systems.

According to John Evdemon, industry architect for Public Sector Solutions on the Architecture Strategy Team at Microsoft and leader of the new Redwood Group, the community of educational systems, content providers and their users are having trouble understanding the complicated specifications world.

As such, the Redwood Group will promote the adoption of service-oriented approaches and clarify and bring together specifications for educational technologies, Evdemon said.

Specifically, Evdemon co-wrote a mission statement with Stuart Sim, a senior staff engineer from Sun, and Scott Thorne, project technical leader for the Open Knowledge Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Mass.

"We are not a WS-I [WS-Interoperability standards body], and were not a standards group in and of itself," Evdemon said. "Were targeting higher education and e-learning."

The Redwood Group is hosted through a neutral Yahoo newsgroup and will work to drive convergence across organizations and to be nonpartisan, Evdemon said in an interview with eWEEK. "Its not just a Microsoft play; weve got to all get along with each other."

Evdemon said he expects to put out white papers, target standards organizations and provide guidance. "My vision for this group is that its a short-term effort," he said. "We want to provide some prescriptive guidance for service-oriented architecture, like how to design services. And we could put out white papers or even provide sample bits in C# or Java, preferably, both."

Angela McGregor, Webmistress at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Theater, Film & Television, said, "I think any effort to create standards for XML is a good thing. ... In my Opinion, one of the primary reasons Web services was not adopted sooner by a lot of organizations was because of the lack of standards and the confusion over which flavor of XML should receive favor."

Mark Aiman, director of Web architecture at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Ind., said, "As more and more universities communicate and share data, the need for some form of ubiquitous standard is apparent."


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