Case | HBS Case Collection | March 2005 (Revised June 2006)

Sun Microsystems, Inc.: Web Services Strategy

by Thomas R. Eisenmann and Fernando Suarez


Microsoft and IBM have excluded Sun Microsystems from the board of the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I), an industry consortium that will shape the evolution of Web services standards. Sun managers must decide whether to join WS-I as a contributing member--a less influential role that lacks the veto and agenda-setting powers of a board position. Sun has recruited leading IT vendors--including several WS-I board members--to create technologies that compete with proposed standards jointly developed by Microsoft and IBM. Consequently, Sun could leverage fears of a protracted standards battle among IT users and vendors, who might pressure Microsoft and IBM to reverse their position regarding a WS-I board position for Sun. The stakes were high; Web services--software modules that exchange information over the Internet, within and between firms, interoperating across a range of hardware, operating system, and programming language platforms--were expected to become the dominant technology for enterprise computing.

Keywords: Information Technology; Standards; Corporate Governance; Power and Influence; Web Services Industry; Information Technology Industry;


Eisenmann, Thomas R., and Fernando Suarez. "Sun Microsystems, Inc.: Web Services Strategy." Harvard Business School Case 805-095, March 2005. (Revised June 2006.)