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Sun, Microsoft join on Web app standard

The companies are among the boosters of a proposal aimed at helping Web applications talk to one another.

A consortium of major technology companies, including newfound allies Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, submitted on Tuesday a proposed new standard intended to promote interoperability between Web applications.

The proposed WS-Addressing specification was submitted to the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, the Web's main standards body, which is expected to form a working group to study and eventually publish the specification.

WS-Addressing was developed by a group that includes representatives from Microsoft, Sun, IBM, BEA and SAP and is intended to serve as a basic building block for Web applications to talk to one another. The specification would provide a framework for applications to exchange and decipher messages, a key requirement for interoperability.

"If applications are going to interact, it's critical that I have a common way to address you," said Karla Norsworthy, director of IBM's Dynamic eBusiness Technologies division.

Lack of interoperability has been one of the key factors in slowing down the expected boom in Web services, with many important applications unable to exchange data with one another. Interoperability between applications written in Microsoft's .Net language and Sun's Java 2 Enterprise Edition, or J2EE, has been seen as one of the main potential benefits from the historic technology-sharing agreement the two companies struck earlier this year.

Sun was a relatively late participant in the WS-Addressing process, but the company was ready to drop some of its own addressing proposals once it saw industry consensus around WP-Addressing, said Ed Julson, head of Web services marketing for Sun.

"In looking at this a little closer, it became clear to us there's a little more maturity in the WP-Addressing," Julson said. "It just seemed like the logical thing to do as we try to get convergence in the industry."

Julson said the Microsoft agreement didn't specifically play a role in Sun's decision to support WS-Addressing, but it has helped bring the companies closer together on standards and other issues. "Certainly that's been helpful in trying to have dialogue on a broad area of things," he said.

WS-Addressing is expected to bring uniformity to a broad range of Web application scenarios, including a number of areas where industry leaders have developed ad-hoc approaches to messaging. Promoting a universal standard can simplify development and permit broader interaction with other IT systems, said David Orchard, director of the technology office for BEA Systems.

"In some cases, (niche industries) have had to invent this functionality for themselves," he said. "By standardizing this...they can focus on the things that are specific to their industry."