The 411 on UDDI

If you use UDDI, and I use UDDI, shouldn’t we all be screaming for the UDDI Business Registry?

It sounded great in theory. A phone book for Web services, some called it. A Yahoo! for businesses, said others. In fact, the public registry is neither and the UDDI consortium’s decision to place

the specification in the hands of a standards body could be considered proof of its failure.

Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) looked like that rare instance of the industry providing the infrastructure to keep pace with the development of a new market. UDDI was created more than two years ago by Microsoft, IBM and Ariba, eventually attracting support from the likes of HP and SAP. The specification is designed to allow businesses to identify and catalogue Web services information online. The partners on Monday took the wraps off version 3 while announcing their intention to submit the technology to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). With this partnership, perhaps the UDDI consortium partners are finally ready to admit enterprises will not accept anything but an open platform.

The UDDI Business Directory, which is hosted on the consortium’s Web site, is supposed to allow CIOs, IT managers and other enterprise executives to search for Web services companies as they begin new projects. This makes sense when you think about it. As I’ve pointed out before, there are still many companies who only have a limited grasp of what Web services are, and some of them probably don’t know where to begin.

Simply offering a directory is not enough, however. I should know. As dot-com businesses flourished in the last few years of the 1990s, we decided to launch a new directory called eBusiness.ca which would do for eBusiness Journal’s readership what CDN Source Guide does for the channel. The trouble is, eBusiness.ca was developed in late 2000 — by which point most of the firms who would use it had gone belly-up. We’re now — how would you say it? — retooling the concept.

The UDDI Business Registry faces the opposite problem. Its market isn’t past its prime; it’s premature. It’s also hard to imagine CIOs or IT managers searching for Web services partners through the registry and then calling names at random. Most organizations already have a request-for-proposal process that makes partners come to them. This will probably continue to be the most common way projects get going.

If the public registry hasn’t taken off, UDDI may still provide some useful tools. Research indicates the technology is finding its way into enterprises as they build private directories to facilitate better interdepartmental communication on Web services projects. This is the same kind of problem that has afflicted companies moving ahead on enterprise resource planning, customer relationship and knowledge management. If UDDI’s capabilities could be extended to help solve challenges in these areas, perhaps we’d stop thinking about it as an online 411 and see it as the IT oasis it could be.

sschick@itbusiness.ca

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