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Sun, Oracle meet on Web services

Despite backing a rival proposal, Sun and Oracle plan to attend a meeting to discuss standardization of the Web services Business Process Execution Language.

Sun Microsystems and Oracle plan to attend the first meeting to discuss a proposed Web services standard, despite their support of a rival specification.

Next Friday a technical committee at the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) will convene to discuss the standardization of the Web services Business Process Execution Language (BPEL). The specification describes how businesses can automate complex business processes using Web services, a series of standards that allow disparate systems to share information easily.

The participation of Sun and Oracle in the meeting gives hope to industry watchers that a compromise could be reached between two rival efforts.

The BPEL specification has the backing a number of heavyweight companies, notably IBM, Microsoft and BEA Systems, which authored the first version of the specification.

Sun and Oracle, however, have supported a proposal that addresses essentially the same function as BPEL but is going through the standardization process at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) instead of through OASIS. The W3C controls a number of important Web services standards. Sun and Oracle are among about 20 companies that are participating in the W3C Choreography working group, which is considering a standard called Web Services Choreography Interface (WSCI).

Last month, SAP and software start-up Intalio decided to back the OASIS BPEL effort despite having originally written WSCI. About twenty other companies, including Siebel, voiced plans to adopt the BPEL as well.

Sun and Oracle intend to participate in the original OASIS BPEL meeting to encourage cooperation between the W3C working group and OASIS to reconcile the two overlapping standards, according to representatives from both companies. Oracle officially joined the OASIS BPEL technical committee last week. Sun intends to join the technical committee, according to a Sun representative.

"While we don't fully understand why BPEL was not donated to the W3C, where a working group to define Web services choreography already exists, we are committed to working with both the W3C and OASIS to achieve alignment between these two efforts," a Sun representative said Thursday.

Industry watchers worry that the two groups will create separate, incompatible standards that address the same area.

Using software that conforms to Web services standards, companies can share information between different applications running on different operating systems and written in different development languages. If the W3C and OASIS standards are not designed to interoperate, customers will need to find methods to bridge the business process standards, according to analysts.

In a gesture to find common ground, the W3C choreography working group last month extended an invitation to the chairpersons of the OASIS BPEL technical committee to attend the W3C's first face-to-face meeting this summer.