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Web services spec gets makeover

A consortium of 220 companies is releasing a third version of the UDDI Web-cataloging specification, recognizing its appeal to big companies for in-house projects.

A Web services directory effort spawned by Microsoft, IBM and Ariba has been updated before its submission to an industry standards body.

The specification, called Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI), identifies and catalogs Web services so they can be easily found online. A consortium of 220 companies is releasing a third version of the specification on Tuesday and submitting the technology to a standards body known as the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS).

Microsoft, IBM and Ariba proposed the directory technology nearly two years ago as sort of a Yahoo for business services. The idea was to build an online database using UDDI that would help companies find Web-based software services that could be used as part of their own business systems. For example, an e-commerce site could use the directory to search for a business that handles credit card transactions. If a match were found, all the elements of the transaction--even the price and payment--could be handled electronically.

But UDDI-based public Web-services directories created by IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Hewlett-Packard have been slow to catch on. Instead, the specification is beginning to find a home in big companies as a way to build directories for internal Web services projects, allowing the companies to better catalog services and communicate across departments. Recognizing that trend, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, IBM and others have been building private UDDI directory capabilities into their software products.

Chris Kurt, program manager for the project, said the consortium of 220 companies submitted the specification to OASIS because of its previous e-business standards work. OASIS, which has strong ties with businesses in different industries, has developed a number of e-business standards, including Electronic Business XML (ebXML), which allows companies in different industries to communicate over the Web. OASIS is also active in the Web services standards efforts, with Microsoft, IBM and VeriSign recently submitting a Web services security specification, called WS-Security, to the standards group.

"Given the focus OASIS has had with B2B-type stuff, it seemed to be the best fit," Kurt said. backers hope that an alliance with a standards body will help them to drive the acceptance of UDDI in general.

OASIS CEO Patrick Gannon said the standards body had previously built directory technology similar to UDDI as part of its ebXML work. But Gannon said UDDI and ebXML do not compete and can co-exist and work together.

"They solve different problems," Gannon said. "We can help jointly promote and position them."

Steve Holbrook, IBM's program director for emerging e-business standards, said UDDI was built for businesses that want to use Web services, while the ebXML registry technology was built for computer-science types, for example, as a place to store XML vocabularies used by various industries. XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a standard for exchanging data.

The latest version of UDDI will offer several new features, including improved security and the ability for businesses to receive automatic notifications when UDDI registries are changed or updated, Holbrook said. The biggest improvement, he said, is a technology called "multi-registry topologies," which allow businesses using an internal UDDI directory to migrate their directory to a public or industry-specific UDDI directory.