Microsoft and Sun prove it takes two to Tango

SAN FRANCISCO – Two years after Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. signed a historic 10-year, US$2-billion deal, the two industry rivals are dancing to the beat of Web services interoperability.

At the end of last year, Microsoft and Sun embarked on an internal project code-named “Tango,” which is part of ongoing Web services interoperability efforts between the two companies. Sun’s Java Web Services engineers are working with Microsoft’s Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) engineers to ensure Java-technology based applications integrate and interoperate within the .Net framework.

“Sun realizes that interoperability gives them a competitive advantage,” said Kirill Gavrylyuk, interoperability program manager, connected systems division at Microsoft. “No enterprise is an island.”

Onno Kluyt, chair of the Java Community Process (JCP) program, said Sun and Microsoft are still learning how to work together.

“A few years back, the cultures of each company were on the opposite sides of the spectrum,” said Kluyt in an interview with “After the settlement, we entered into a learning experience that was not just technical but also had reasoning behind it.”

Kluyt said there is a potential “win-win” scenario for the two companies if Sun can make Java technology better interoperate with Microsoft database products.

“That would be beneficial to Microsoft as it improves the appeal of their products,” he said, adding that the two firms, however, should continue to take “manageable” steps. “If either company tries to take too big a step it could fail.”

Established in 1998, the JCP is a Sun-led initiative to develop and revise the Java technology specifications. The JCP currently has 1,052 members, including JBoss, Oracle and Apache Software Foundation but not Microsoft.

At an international press roundtable Jonathan Schwartz, Sun president and CEO, said one of his first calls when he took over the helm from Scott McNealy a couple of weeks ago was to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Schwartz said he told Ballmer that Sun is, “committed to Microsoft and the interoperability (Microsoft and Sun) need to get their jobs done.” Sun demonstrated that commitment on stage during Tuesday’s keynote where a Microsoft employee and a Sun employee each had roses in their mouths and were dancing the tango.

As part of project Tango, Microsoft and Sun engineers have been implementing and testing a number of Web Services (WS) specifications such as WS-Security, XML Schema and SOAP to ensure interoperability between the two platforms.

“Microsoft wants to build an ecosystem for Web services that solves customer integration needs,” said Gavrylyuk. “WS-Star is a good framework to build applications on top of it to easily integrate with one another.”

David Senf, manager of Canadian application development and infrastructure software at IDC Canada, said interoperability between different security standards such as WS-Security is going to help accelerate SOA adoption.

“It’s going to help federate across .Net and across other environments,” said Senf, adding that enterprises, however, are still grappling with being able to grant access rights to their employees.

At this week’s Java One show, which attracted 13,000 attendees, Sun announced the availability of Web Services Interoperability Technology (WSIT) components that are available to the open source OpenJava EE community as part of Project Glassfish.

In the last 12 months, there have been a quarter of a million downloads of project Glassfish, according to Sun. The Glassfish community is building a free, open source application server that incorporates new features from Java Enterprise Edition 5. Sun earlier this week announced the availability of the Java EE 5 platform, which is designed to help developers quickly and easily deploy enterprise Web services.

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