Sun fires anti-Hailstorm salvo

Hailstorm may be Microsoft's answer to the challenge of delivering Web services, but executives at Sun Microsystems believe it is...

Hailstorm may be Microsoft's answer to the challenge of delivering Web services, but executives at Sun Microsystems believe it is just one component in a much larger picture.

This latest salvo in an escalating battle over Web services development has seen Sun officials argue that the "inclusive" approach of Sun's Open Net Environment (ONE) architecture is at odds with Microsoft and IBM, both of which are attempting to become service providers in their own right.

The comments come as Microsoft prepares to ship Windows XP to distributors on 24 August. XP contains the single sign-on authentication service, Passport, which uses XML-based technology to combine data across the Internet.

In a series of interviews this week, Sun officials emphasised that the ONE framework was designed to attract partners who would act as service providers to manage and authenticate enterprise services.

Marge Breya, the Sun ONE vice president, said: "Our approach will see Sun concentrating on supplying the underlying architecture that drives Web services.

"We will offer basic technology, while services will be offered by independent vendors. The service providers do the authenticating necessary for Web services.

"We are a technology-enabling company. Service providers build their own infrastructure. Microsoft's Hailstorm builds its own infrastructure, but we don't believe that any one company can serve as service brokers for enterprises. The bottom line is there has to be a ton of different service brokers."

Greg Papadopoulos, Sun's chief technology officer, also added to the debate. "You can't keep thinking things will scale from one point," he said, referring to centralised models such as Hailstorm, IBM's Eliza Project and peer-to-peer sites.

As a result, he added, Sun's Web services strategy would continue to focus on delivering enterprise users a single "best-of-breed" solution.

Breya said Sun currently offered its Solaris Operating system, Java Enterprise Edition, development tools and packaged applications to enable service providers to adapt their platforms for particular enterprise needs.

Breya added that the use of XML and Java-based specifications was also critical to Sun's "democratic" view of Web services.

Analysts believe it is too early to judge the degree of success among Web services offerings. One analyst argued that much of the discussion about Web services was deliberately vague, the intention being to attract attention to undeveloped services.

Microsoft is attempting to use Hailstorm to attract customers to its entire .Net platform, including Windows, Passport and its Web services applications.

Dana Gardner, an analyst at the Aberdeen Group, said: "Sun is primarily providing picks and shovels and the underlying hardware for Web services, while Microsoft is saying they will put up Web services for you, including Passport-user ID as well as the other dozen or so services of Hailstorm.

"IBM is much closer to the Sun approach, except that IBM is also espousing the need for professional services in order to be able to carry out Web services."

Microsoft and IBM were not available for comment.

Read more on Web software