Sun turns up heat on Web services initiative

Sun Microsystems Inc. has built upon its Web services initiative, dubbed Sun ONE, with new details about its strategy and products.

A Sun ONE (Open Net Environment) starter kit for developers and IT architects, an iForce portal solution for service providers and upgrades to the Solaris 8 operating environment were all announced at the Service on Demand Summit, held Tuesday in Santa Clara, Calif.

Some refer to Web services as connecting information and services on the Web such that they can be accessed from any device. A consumer example of a Web service would be buying an plane ticket, then having flight and destination information show up as a calendar entry, said iPlanet president Mark Tolliver.

iPlanet will play a larger role in Sun ONE as the agreement between Sun and Netscape which spawned the company winds down next year and iPlanet is merged back into Sun.

Sun CEO Scott McNealy likened the Sun ONE initiative to a jukebox where companies will be able to play the enterprise equivalents of 8-tracks, LPs, CDs and tapes. “All of its databases, applications, reports, transactions, all of this legacy stuff that it wants to connect into this . . . jukebox,” he explained. “You get access to only the records that you paid your money for, that you have authorization for, and then it plays out.”

Sun ONE Web services will be rolled out in three phases, said Tolliver: building out the infrastructure to handle services, rolling services out internally and to select partners, then opening them into registers globally. “(It’s) kind of the ultimate ROI (return on investment),” he said. “Not only do we take advantage of our own information assets but we take advantage of others — both public and private services that have been developed out there as well.”

Tolliver described the process as a continuum where services are gradually added rather than a “rip and replace” attitude that Sun claims Microsoft has adopted for its own Web services initiative called .Net.

Sun ONE is built on open standards, said Sun COO Ed Zander, and has extended support for standards such as SOAP, UDDI, XML, WSDL.

But support for standards will only take you so far at this early stage of the Web services game, said Randy Heffner, vice-president of application architecture for research firm Giga Information Group. “None of the Web services standards are really standards yet. They’re all proposed, in development, in draft. In a way, it’s vapour even at the most basic level.”

Sun’s criticism of Microsoft’s closed approach to architecture only makes sense from a certain point of view, he added. “If you already have a Microsoft infrastructure, you don’t have to rip out anything to do .Net” A conversion to a J2EE (Sun’s Java 2 Enterprise Edition) Web services platform would require a significant overhaul from a Microsoft environment.

Security protocols are a particular sticky issue when disparate organizations are trying to get onto the same Web platform, said Heffner. “It’s not (standard) for security, you still have to get the techies involved,” he said. “It will be at least the end of 2002 before some of these standards solidify,” and Web services are still the realm of early adopters.

One of those adopters is Montreal-based ICom Solutions Technologiques, an iPlanet enterprise partner. The company announced its support for the Sun ONE initiative on Tuesday. Some Web services are currently available, said ICom partner Pierre Tocci, and will begin to solidify in the next three to six months. Security may be an obstacle but it isn’t insurmountable, he said. “The platform is open, so we can really blend into the client’s security model. If we couldn’t, then there would be no space for Sun.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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