Sun Exec Talks Up ‘Smart’ Web Services

For years before the Internet took prominence in our lives, Sun Microsystems regularly preached the slogan, “The Network is the Computer.” Now that the rest of the computer world is catching on via Application Service Provider (ASP) technology, and Microsoft’s forthcoming .NET services initiative, Sun is looking to raise the bar.

“The world is changing from big applications to componentized software,” says George Paolini, VP of Technology Evangelism and Marketing at Sun Microsystems. Paolini followed eBay CEO Meg Whitman in a keynote address at today’s InternetWorld show in Los Angeles.

In Sun’s vision, applications are a service much as an electric utility dispenses power — most of the complexity is handled by the utility while the consumer simply plugs in.

In the future, Paolini says such Web services should include such attributes as context. “A Web service ought to scale to modify its behavior based on changing conditions.” For example, the service could theoretically adapt depending on a user’s location or role within a company. A sales exec searching the Net on her PDA for a place to take a client to dinner might be presented with a set of upscale restaurants in the area, but when that same person looks from his home computer, the list becomes more family-oriented eateries. “The system should be dynamic enough to know that your role has changed,” says Paolini.

In a more business to business example of context, a large company might customize how each of its many suppliers view and use the same Web service.

Says Paolini: “These are just the kind of things we need to build.”

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