Sun, Microsoft in One-upsmanship Duel Over Web Services

They’re at it again. Shades of the competitive Java wars are peeking through. This time,
Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft
Corp. are duking it out this week over the nascent, but
undoubtedly lucrative Web services market at the Sun Service on
Demand Summit in Santa Clara, Calif. and the Microsoft Professional
Developers Conference in Los Angeles, respectively.


Indeed, with .NET already well outlined for the world earlier this year,
Palo Alto, Calif.’s Sun finally drew the curtain on its
own strategy to help enterprises make better use of their assets by pulling
together data that can be accessed by people to “provide
information, data and applications to anyone, anytime, anywhere, on any
device.”


Just what can the concept of Web services do for the enterprise? Gartner
Inc. believes quite a bit, eventually. The market research
firm said that by 2005 Web services will drive a 30 percent increase in the
efficiency of information technology development
projects that use them aggressively for functionality inclusion.


Sun’s Open Net Environment, or SunONE, was introduced Tuesday by
President and Chief
Operating Officer Ed Zander, who served as keynote for Sun’s summit. In a
bullish sales pitch, Zander opened up the keynote by
calling for the business world to cast aside worries about the stock market
to focus on “new products and new architectures that
come from what customers are telling us they want and need.”


He proceeded to describe the evolution of Sun’s next-generation capabilities
from such software as its leading Solaris and Java
programs, noting several times that Sun’s goal was to attack the value chain
to help enterprises increase return-of-assets (ROA) for
existing capital and bolster IT assets. Zander talked of challenges met and
challenges still to come, including how to make them
interoperable and get people to accept them.


But for all of the pomp, SunONE really comes down to improving Internet
services while minimizing costs by eliminating the need to
replace a business’s operating environment. And while Zander and Co.
introduced such features as the Sun ONE Starter Kit and the iPlanet Portal Server, which features
collaborative instant messaging, Sun wants developers to embrace its open standards to facilitate the creation of more Web services that take advantage of SOAP and XML, as well as all of Sun’s languages, tools
and programs.


And there is numerous support — about 25 systems integrators and
independent service vendors and over 30 partners have pledged
allegiance to the initiative.


Speaking confidently about SunONE and pointedly against Microsoft, Zander claimed: “No one else offers this
approach. The options are clear — an open, integratable
solution as part of a complete end-to-end solution, such as Sun ONE, or face
complexity and closed options, which in time will
restrict your opportunities for growth and integration.”


Redmond, Wash.’s Microsoft, after airing its XML-based Web services plan
across the state, may beg to differ. It made perhaps the
most important announcement about its Web services push yet; the company’s hallowed code for the .NET Framework and
Visual Studio .NET has been released to all conference attendees, a precursor to releasing .NET on a wide scale.
Microsoft said the release effectively caps a beta period during which more
than 2.5 million developers tested the upcoming product.
Microsoft is also expected to announce business partner pricing for .NET My
Services soon.


“Our mission is simple: enable developers to be at the forefront of the XML
Web services revolution with powerful, productive tools
that deliver business value fast,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft founder,
Chairman and Chief Software Architect. “Customers are
demanding a software platform that not only delivers world-class client,
server and service solutions, but also makes it easy for
these solutions to work with each other and with existing investments. .NET
delivers on these goals, breaking down the complexity of
integration and helping developers use the power of XML Web services to
solve business problems quickly and effectively.”


Like Gartner, Jupiter Media Metrix, too, believes Web services will be a
valuable driver for cutting internal applications costs.
However, the research firm also believes successful, interoperable implementation
is a ways off.


“Visions of companies dynamically ‘discovering’ and collaborating with
suppliers and partners through Internet-facilitated
interactions is still within reach but the most realistic opportunities for
companies over the next 18-24 months is to use the Web
services software for cutting costs,” said David Schatsky, research director
and senior analyst, Jupiter Media Metrix.

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