Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft and SAP have launched beta registries supporting version 2 of the Universal Discovery, Description and Integration (UDDI) standard.
New features in the v2 beta include support for private registries, changes to the way business relationships are modeled and more access for programmers and end users.
The UDDI project began as the joint brainchild of Ariba, IBM and Microsoft, but tough times forced Ariba to pull out. HP and SAP have stepped up to take Ariba's place. Besides these four node operators, there's a community of other companies helping draft and refine the spec.
UDDI is supposed to fuel growth of business-to-business e-commerce by creating a kind of electronic yellow pages of services. That said, the project is not a standards body, and despite several promises to do so it has yet to submit the spec to any such body. Maybe next year, representatives say.
UDDI was conceived as an open framework for businesses to discover each other, define how they interact over the Internet and share information in a global registry. With it, registered businesses can direct potential partners to their preferred applications. It builds on IETF and W3C standards, including XML, HTTP and DNS. SOAP lends UDDI its cross-platform programming features. The Web Services Description Language, Web Services Conversation Language and Web Services Inspection specs add further layers of sophistication, although UDDI has no formal relationship with any of these.
The UDDI spec describes a conceptual cloud of Web services and a programmatic interface. It consists of documents and an XML schema, which outlines the SOAP-based protocol used for registering and discovering Web services. Together, they form a simple framework for describing Web services.
Version 1 was published on Sept. 6, 2000. The registries launched this week are built on v2, and work on v3 is already under way. The big new feature in v3 will be the ability of subscribers to a registry to be notified of changes, or when a new service of particular interest comes online.
UDDI faces competition of a kind from the ebXML, OASIS xml.org and BizTalk registries, as well as the E-Services Village. Even RosettaNet can be seen as a rival, although its partner interface processes (PIPs) qualify as Web services for UDDI's purposes. The UDDI node operators want all the businesses registered elsewhere to re-register in the UDDI nodes. That's a lot to ask.
According to Intel senior software engineer Joel Munter, there are 7,000-10,000 businesses registered, most advertising multiple services. It must be said, though, that only a tiny percentage of those are Web services in the strict sense of the term. Intel, for example, lists "home page" as one of its services. You have to wonder how many of its prospective business partners really needed a complex new protocol in order to discover http://www.intel.com. Munter believes the subscription features in UDDI v3 will help speed adoption.
Something has to, or the gang of four node operators will have wasted their time and money. It's significant that the node operators -- HP, IBM, Microsoft and SAP -- share an urgent interest in driving the adoption of XML-based Web standards and services. Encouraging dependence on UDDI means building demand for these companies' products. It's equally significant that Intel has so far declined to operate its own UDDI node, and that Ariba has pulled out. Much as the drivers of UDDI would like to paint it as a global registry and universally accepted industry standard, other powerful e-business players are reluctant to commit themselves to the spec just yet.
the451 (www.the451.com) is an analyst firm that provides timely, detailed and independent analysis of news in technology, communications and media. To evaluate the service click here.