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New Standard Promises Tighter E-Business Integration

A broad coalition of business and technology companies, lead by Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp. (www.ibm.com) and Ariba Inc. announced the launch of an initiative designed to provide a universal online directory for business-to-business transactions. The service will be similar to the yellow and white pages for phone service, but designed to provide information about companies' products and processes.

Called the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) Project, the new venture will define a platform-neutral set of specifications to enable businesses to describe themselves and indicate their preferred means of conducting e-commerce transactions. Second, UDDI includes the shared operation of a globally distributed UDDI Business Registry, through which companies will be able to publish information describing how they conduct commerce and search for other businesses that provide the capabilities, Web services or products they need.

The goal of the UDDI Project is to offer the basic infrastructure for the integration of all e-commerce transactions and Web services. Similar to the impact HTML had for consumers on the Internet by providing a common Web site publishing format that fueled the Internet explosion, the UDDI initiative hopes to establish a common mechanism for publishing Web services on the Internet. Electronic marketplaces, ASPs and individual businesses can use UDDI-enabled applications to define the services they offer over the Web, publish those services in the UDDI Business Registry and use the registry to connect with other businesses globally.

"In order for B2B to scale to universal adoption and the now-famous trillion-dollar projections given by analysts, it's time for the industry to build on its early successes and collaborate on interoperability," says Larry Mueller, president and chief operating officer at Ariba (www.ariba.com). "B2B e-commerce's success has been uneven as marketplaces, buyers, suppliers and commerce service providers often must reinvent integration methodologies for their various trading partners."

Some analysts, however, fear that UDDI throws another standard into today's existing alphabet soup of options, which include the eCo Framework, OAG, OASIS, and GCI among others. "There is more than a little redundancy even among the key partners that count SOAP, cXML, BizTalk, and tpaML among their portfolio of standards efforts," says Bob Parker, analyst with AMR Research (www.amrresearch.com). "Are the services offered comprehensive enough to make use worthwhile? How will the effort be promoted to the masses? How will security and privacy be administered? Will there be commercial pilots to demonstrate effectiveness? These questions must be addressed immediately."

The upside of UDDI is that it's supported by three industry giants that usually can't agree on anything, Parker adds. "The collaboration presents an opportunity to unify individual efforts and create a universal directory for e-business. The contractual commitment of resources by these companies without the drag of public debate found with broader standards organizations is likely to lead to some, finally, tangible results."

The UDDI Business Registry provides an implementation of the UDDI specification. Any company can access the registry on the Internet, enter the description of its business, reach a UDDI site, or search through all business services listed in the UDDI registry. There is no cost to access information in the registry.

Although based on XML, the registry can also describe services implemented using HTML, Java, CORBA, Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) Windows DNA, or any other type of programming model or language. The registry is implemented as a Web service and thus can be discovered, integrated and programmatically invoked using XML like any other Web service. Beta implementations of the UDDI Business Registry will be available from Microsoft, IBM, and Ariba by the beginning of October. - Joseph McKendrick

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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