The online directory that some claim will make Web services a reality went live Wednesday with backing from many of corporate heavyweights as well as startup companies.
Microsoft Corp., Ariba Inc. and IBM Corp. announced the UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) Business Registry in September of last year and billed the project as the first true Yellow Pages for the Web. The trio of vendors put out a trial version of UDDI in November and have now released the first fully operational version of the registry.
Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) has also taken a lead role in the project recently, taking on some of the responsibilities for maintaining the registry once held by Ariba.
While Microsoft, Ariba, HP and IBM lead UDDI's development, many large companies have joined the project, which they claim could ease the way in which companies conduct business online. American Express Co., Compaq Computer Corp, SAP AG, Dell Computer Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. all signed up to help out with UDDI at its launch, making a total group of around 30 vendors. That list has grown substantially in recent months, stretching to over 260 companies, including The Boeing Co. and British Telecommunications PLC.
These 260 companies can contribute suggestions about how UDDI develops and technology support for the project. Thousands of other companies have also joined UDDI by submitting their information to the directory.
The UDDI registry promises to make it easier for businesses to provide information about their products and services on the Web as well as locate partners and customers. A number of registries that use differing protocols exist on the Web today already, but Microsoft, IBM, HP and Ariba said they want to promote a common, shared set of identifiers. It is free for companies to submit information about their businesses to the registry.
"This is a really important aspect to doing Web services," said Dana Gardner, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group Inc. "Without it people are basically shooting in the dark. In order to get the network effect out of Web services, you need to have your services speak to others."
Gardner, like many, sees UDDI as the foundation that will make the Web services dream a reality. Many companies are ready to showcase the usefulness of their particular tools but have yet to find a stage in which to act upon. By linking companies on a single platform and developing easier ways to complete transactions, all companies can benefit from a shared technology.
As UDDI has progressed, Gardner was not surprised to see that HP will replace Ariba as organizer of one of the three data collection centers for UDDI.
"I think folks in Ariba's business are seeing some difficult economic times right now and need to decide where to devote their resources," he said. "Companies like HP have resources at their fingertips, and HP really needs to get into this ball game."
Ariba will now act as a registrar aid, making it easier for other companies to sign up for UDDI, according to Chris Kurt, Microsoft group program manager for UDDI and Web Services. HP will begin maintaining some of the servers needed for the project later this year.
The UDDI system will contain three types of information, divided into what the vendors refer to as White, Yellow and Green pages.
The White Pages will contain business names, descriptions of the type of business, and other information regarding what kind of services a vendor uses and also what protocols they support. The Yellow Pages adopt current government codes for tagging types of business operations as well as international and technology-based naming protocols. In addition, it arranges companies by geographical location. The Green Pages should provide more specific information on what types of documents a company can receive, the entry points for transactions, and the technology they currently interact with and support.
Many of the companies involved in the project hope to build more specific directories on top of UDDI as the project moves along. They hope to have UDDI as an open, common starting point with consistent identifiers for companies' business practices. With that base, vendors can offer other services on top of the directory which could allow them to generate additional revenue.
Microsoft, IBM, and HP will maintain the servers which collect the registry information for about the next year, at which time the project will be turned over to an as-yet unnamed standards body. Updates to the registry are scheduled to appear throughout 2001, with more complex features added for varying types of business-to-business transactions. Version two of UDDI should appear in the next two months with the third variation coming in by year-end, according to Kurt.
More information is available at http://www.uddi.org.