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What the Liberty Alliance could learn from UDDI

Dec 19, 20053 mins
Access ControlData CenterIBM

* The demise of UDDI could be of comfort to the Liberty Alliance

It’s been suggested to me that one reason why the Liberty Alliance is looking to “diversify” (see the last issue of this newsletter) is that it’s feeling some heat from the marketplace regarding the Microsoft/IBM Web Services Initiative (WS-*) and its WS-Federation technology. Now that Windows Server 2003 R2 is just about to ship with the new Active Directory Federation Services, many observers think that most people will be inclined to go down the WS-* road.

I wouldn’t be so sure about the quick acceptance of Microsoft/IBM technology initiatives, though. Remember UDDI?

UDDI – Universal Description, Discovery and Integration – was announced amid great fanfare five years ago. It was described as: “A sweeping initiative that creates a global, platform-independent, open framework to enable businesses to (1) discover each other, (2) define how they interact over the Internet, and (3) share information in a global registry that will more rapidly accelerate the global adoption of B2B eCommerce.” (See UDDI, SOAP and WSDL: The Web Services Specification Reference Book.)

Yes, UDDI was going to revolutionize business-to-business (B2B) computing. IBM and Microsoft (along with SAP) jointly set up the UDDI Business Registry, a boon to B2B commerce. According to the announcement press release back in November 2000: “By listing a Web service in the UDDI Business Registry (UBR), companies are opening the door for the establishment of new e-business relationships and added efficiency to existing relationships. Companies can publish identifying information and indicate a preferred means of conducting e-commerce transactions. Businesses registered are located more easily by B2B customers and partners via the registry’s search mechanism.”

Last week, Microsoft announced that UBR would be closing early next year. From Microsoft’s UBR Shutdown FAQ: “Publication to the sites will be disabled as of Jan. 12, 2006, and no new information will be accepted. Users will be able to login and use the Web pages and programming interfaces until Jan. 12, 2006, to retrieve any public information.”

I’ve never been a big fan of UDDI for B2B or other general use. It does have some traction in enterprise networks in that one organization can be in charge of both the listings and the searches using a limited query vocabulary to enable corporate users to discover resources they’re interested in. But the mechanism, syntax, arbitrary categories and less-than-intuitive search mechanisms all worked to ensure that as a general business tool it was somewhat less successful than a simple Google search.

The FAQ referenced above says that, “The primary goal of the UBR was to prove the interoperability and robustness of the UDDI specifications through a public implementation. This goal was met and far exceeded.” There was, though, no mention of any limited goal in the press release trumpeting the establishment of the UBR, which seems to imply that the registry would be maintained in perpetuity.

So to the folks at the Liberty Alliance – the organization was started, all too hastily, in reaction to a Microsoft initiative (“Hailstorm”) – don’t make the same mistake again by reorganizing because of another Microsoft initiative.