December 08, 2000, 12:06 PM — B2B exchanges have garnered great attention this year, but a standard means for
product and service providers to identify themselves and their offerings is missing. In
effect, the B2B world lacks a yellow pages.
With over 600 B2B marketplaces online today, according to Forrester Research of Boston,
Mass., finding new trading partners could be akin to pinpointing a needle in a
haystack. That could inhibit growth.
In September, Ariba, IBM, and Microsoft announced the Universal Description Discovery
and Integration (UDDI) project to solve that problem. UDDI is an XML-based framework
said to provide standard APIs by which businesses participating in online exchanges can
identify who they are and what types of products or services they provide.
Earlier this month, UDDI version 1 entered beta tests. "This is not a play for
developing theoretical APIs," said Robert Sutor, IBM's director of ebusiness standards
strategy. "We are now building registries that really exist."
The three founding companies will operate interlinked UDDI registries during the first
test phase, Sutor said.
Version 1 will support basic identifiers. Those describe, for example, where a company
is based or where it offers products and services. Identifiers include industry
classifiers, employing a format known as NICS, for the North American Industry
Classification Scheme, which is similar to Standard Industry Classification (SIC) codes
used by the government. Today, the APIs are based on SOAP (Simple Object Access
protocol), a Microsoft-developed technology for communicating XML over HTTP and
potentially other protocols. IBM and others have joined Microsoft in promoting the SOAP
IBM is enhancing its MQSeries messaging software to support SOAP.
IBM is at work on an internal procurement directory utilizing UDDI; it will be accessed
by MQ Series software that recognizes UDDI formats.
The project principals are committed to developing two more versions of UDDI, about six
to 12 months apart, and they expect to submit final results to international standards
bodies in about 18 months. According to Sutor, the agenda for versions 2 and 3 have not
yet been identified, although they are likely to look at infrastructure issues such as
replication to distributed UDDI directories.
Sutor speculated that vertical industry groups might overlay their own identifiers. For
instance, members of the electronics industry could add an interface that identifies
whether a company is RosettaNet-enabled. The RosettaNet consortium, one of the earliest
XML proponents, had been at work on industry specific EDI exchange formats.