To date, Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) has been outshined by other Web services specifications, but thanks to a recent endorsement by OASIS and a growing need to make specific Web services easy to find, the XML-based standard is poised for a comeback.
When UDDI was originally conceived of three years ago, Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp. and others believed it would promote Web services usage in the same way that search sites popularized Web surfing. It was believed that companies would construct Web services and then publish the information needed to interact with them in one large UDDI directory. Then, for instance, if someone wanted to locate and bind to a particular company's or type of Web service, doing so would be as simple as searching the UDDI directory, pinpointing a Web service's listing and following the instructions provided by its developer.
However, the idea was slightly ahead of its time. Not only did few developers understand UDDI, but there also were even fewer companies building Web services, said Anne Thomas Manes, a research director with the Burton Group, in Midvale, Utah.
"Now that people are starting to do real Web services development, they've got more Web services than they can handle. Instead of having someone call up and ask, now [companies] want to actually have a standard mechanism that allows people to discover their Web services," Manes said.
Even though the concept of a single, public UDDI directory listing every available Web service seems to have perished, Manes said UDDI is picking up steam again because companies see the value in building directories for internal use in large firms, as well as among partner companies or in market verticals.
Recently, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) ratified UDDI version 2.0 as an official standard. While Manes called the original 1.0 specification "useless," she said the customization capabilities in version 2.0 represent a significant step forward.
"[Version 2.0] is a very good registry, with very few issues that cause ambiguity. If a spec is ambiguous, then you wind up getting interoperability issues, but version 2 was nice and concrete," Manes said.
In fact, she said, most UDDI vendors upgraded their products to version 2.0 even before it was ratified. That was because, in large part, many of them -- including IBM, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Fujitsu America Inc., Oracle Corp., SAP AG, Intel Corp., Equifax Inc. and others -- spent nine months developing version 2.0 and implementing test UDDI registries.
Even though most vendors' UDDI products are currently based on version 2.0, the industry has already shifted its focus to version 3.0. Manes said the developing specification will incorporate security policies for accessing and managing registry data.
"As part of that, it permits signatures, so you can sign an entry and verify that it hasn't been hoaxed," Manes said. "You also have the ability to specify access requirements, so you can require a secure connection or login."
Manes also said that version 3.0 will specify access control based on content. For example, a company could provide a UDDI registry for its partners, allowing some companies to view all the entries and others to see information only on select Web services.
Additionally, Manes said, version 3.0 enables one registry to reference information contained in another and allows users to subscribe to change-based notifications, so they can keep up with changes to certain listings as soon as they are made. Manes said products based on version 3.0 will be available from several vendors later this year.
One company utilizing UDDI is Harrison, N.Y.-based Picture Services Network Inc. The subsidiary of the International Imaging Industry Association (I3A) standards group facilitates and promotes services provided by photography vendors.
PSN contracted vendor Systinet Corp. to help it build a UDDI directory to list the digital photography services provided by its members. Jack DeMarti, director and co-chairman of the I3A's Common Picture Exchange Environment group, said the directory will be used by webmasters and developers that want to use Web services to obtain information about up-to-date photography services for their applications.
"So if my company had a software application and wanted to present service options to a consumer, I could build my application to interact with the picture services directory," DeMarti said. "For instance, it could query the service and locate digital print services close to the end user's home."
DeMarti said that, if his group had had to provide that information without UDDI, it would probably have had to build and maintain an expensive and complex data warehouse. Or, in a worst-case scenario, each company would have had to provide information about its services without any standardization, making integration difficult.
PSN's UDDI service directory will debut in June. DeMarti said that, because UDDI provides a relatively simple way to find and share service information, he expects interest in the technology to increase within other verticals.
Manes also said that interest in UDDI is on the rise and that sales of UDDI-based products have increased since the first quarter.
"That was the point when people started moving away from playing with it to doing real business based on Web services," Manes said.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Read analyst Simon Yates' commentary on UDDI