Web Directories Dial In
No doubt youve heard about the UDDI Business Registry, the online registry that uses the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration standard. Backers such as Microsoft Corp. say it will one day become the worldwide yellow pages for locating and accessing Web services.
Its less likely that youve heard about the UDDI registry Greg Clark recently deployed behind his companys firewall. Too bad. While experts say the UDDI Business Registry wont begin to fulfill its promise until 2004 at the earliest, E2open LLC, where Clark is chief technology and operating officer, has used its private UDDI registry to cut the cost of linking customers to its own online services and those of other customers by 70 percent. Whats more, the UDDI registry has helped members of the electronics industry collaboration network complete interenterprise integration links as much as 50 percent faster than traditional point-to-point approaches involving electronic data interchange and/or leased lines.
"Our business is built on our capability to do application integration and to share information," said Clark, in Belmont, Calif. "So it should come as little surprise that we see private UDDI registries as the fastest way for us to see a return on investment right now."
E2open seems to be on to something. While all the hype has surrounded public UDDI registries, experts say that the more common deployments of UDDI, at least in the short term, will be on private networks. In fact, Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn., estimates that next year adoption of private UDDI registries at larger enterprises will increase by more than 30 percent from this year, while public UDDI will not take off until 2004. In addition, Gartner estimates that, through 2005, more than 75 percent of Web services located through UDDI will be services privately generated by known partners with pre-existing agreements.
"Private UDDI registries are of great interest because large enterprises, in particular, can create a registry to find a service among departments to achieve a higher return on investment from development efforts," said Jamie Lewis, CEO of The Burton Group Corp., a networking consulting company in Midvale, Utah.
So, like E2open, growing numbers of organizations are starting to consider private UDDI registries as a way to share large amounts of information among employees, business divisions or business partners.
But, say experts, theres a right way and a wrong way to deploy private UDDI registries. Because the UDDI specificationcurrently on Version 2is still relatively new and weak in areas such as security, enterprises should deploy UDDI registries in production environments only in cases where they represent compelling ROI and there are no good alternatives, experts say.
Enterprises interested in integrating the technology for business-to-business purposes should first discuss the idea of private registries with trading partners that have the same need and then make such services available on a case-by-case basis. Version 3.0 of the UDDI specification (drafts are expected later this year) is slated to address the security and interoperability problems in Version 2.0. Organizations should wait for stronger UDDI security features before starting widespread B2B UDDI directories, although strictly internal deployments are feasible now.
In addition, before deploying private UDDI registries, enterprises should determine whether the standard fits their needs or another Web-based alternative is better. While UDDI is tailored for global organizations and general searches, the directory defined by ebXML (electronic business XML) is designed to enable application-to-application integration among related businesses. And the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards Registrys main strength lies in its ability to build registries that simply classify XML-encoded documents.
Publish or Perish
Developed by Ariba Inc., IBM, Microsoft, Intel Corp. and SAP AG in 2000, the UDDI specification describes Web-based services and the interfaces required so that businesses and business applications can interact with them and one another across the Internet.
When one part of an enterprise has new services or new versions of services it wants to make available online, a private UDDI can be used to specify which version should be used and to switch from version to version more rapidly.
Software offerings that turn UDDI into a real service are being offered by Systinet Corp., Cape Clear Software Inc. and SilverStream Software Inc. Industry heavyweights have also integrated UDDI servers into their Web services offerings. Examples include IBMs release of IBM WebSphere UDDI Registry and Microsofts integration of a UDDI server into its .Net server software. While most private UDDI vendors support UDDI Version 1 today, IBM and Microsoft are expected to support UDDI Version 2 by the summer.
With so many vendors jumping into the fray, experts say organizations just exploring Web directories should initially lean toward the version and type of registry their Web software vendor is pushing. Thats what IT managers at online auction house Ubid Inc., in Chicago, are doing. Because Ubid is using the Microsoft SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) tool kit, the company is also evaluating UDDI, which Microsoft supports. Pablo Ugaz, chief technology officer, said he hopes to use a private UDDI registry to allow Ubids auction aggregator partners to integrate with his companys inventory management system.
"I wouldnt worry so much about which registry to invest in right now because most enterprises arent making bet-the-farm decisions," said Lewis from The Burton Group. "But if youve bought into .Net, you should probably look at UDDI. It depends on your proclivity and where your strategic directions lie."
Other enterprises with urgent integration needs are moving toward UDDI more quickly. At Robertson Stephens Inc., in San Francisco, for example, Dirck Hecking, vice president of e-commerce and acting technical architect, plans to deploy UDDI registries internally sometime this year and publicly on the Internet by the end of next year.
Heckings plan for the private deployment is to use UDDI registry hubs as a way to provide access to information available in company databasessuch as corporate reference data and account information.
The idea, Hecking said, is for groups such as the e-commerce and corporate teams to identify their services, such as a database of client account information, and post them to the internal registry. Once that is done, the company will no longer need to replicate functionality from group to group. Instead, users will access the private UDDI registry to invoke the services they need.
Robertson Stephens has standardized on Sun Microsystems Inc.s Java 2 Enterprise Edition Web services platform and the WebLogic Enterprise Platform application server from BEA Systems Inc. The investment bank also deployed Cape Clears CapeConnect software as the underpinning of its Web services initiative. The software allows the company to expose software components such as Enterprise JavaBeans as Web services based on XML and SOAP.
While Robertson Stephens has big plans for UDDI, Hecking said he will wait at least until Version 3 of the UDDI standard is released before moving ahead with his deployment. While Version 2 of the specification added binding capabilities that enterprises said were necessary for B2B interactions, programmers working on UDDI Version 3 are considering adding functions such as workflow, internationalization, e-commerce and stronger security technologies such as public-key infrastructure.
"We endorsed SOAP, we love where [Web Services Description Language] is going, and UDDI really ties the knot for all these underlying Web services technologies," Hecking said. "But just to be clear, Im not going to be some cowboy running through the organization writing Web services and deploying private UDDI if were not ready to use it."
The continued work on the UDDI specification isnt the only thing holding Robertson Stephens back. Rob Maher, a principal in the brokerage technology and e-commerce division of the investment bank, said he would also like to see more off-the-shelf UDDI products that support Version 3 before moving forward.
While experts advise enterprises to err on the side of caution, they say that, for those who cant wait, private UDDI can live up to its potential.
It has at E2open. Last year, the company, which operates a collaboration network that 65,000 electronics companies use to share product cycle information, replaced APIs from proprietary e-commerce platforms with UDDI-compliant connections to give members access to information in its IBM DB2 relational database management system. The UDDI interface was built onto an existing IBM LDAP directory. The repository gives members, in effect, self-service access to E2open information, and that reduces E2opens administrative expenses.
E2opens UDDI registry, called E2open Process Directory, also allows members to more easily integrate with one another online. The directory provides a private clearinghouse and data storage repository for the administration of IP addresses, security registration and authorization procedures, legal documentation, and high-level business process information such as RosettaNet Partner Interface Process maps.
After a member company is authorized by E2open, it can specify information on how it wants trading partners to conduct business with it electronically. Members can also search the registry for similar information on its trading partners.
"UDDI plays a large role in standardizing business-to-business communications on the Web, and we really see the return on investment firsthand," said E2opens Clark. "Were committed to UDDI because we know we can lower the cost of business-to-business integration by leveraging the potential of UDDI and Web services."