Thursday, January 26, 2006

You Only Live Twice - The Death and Life of UDDI

The death of the UDDI Business Registry was far from being natural. This post restores the dramatic moments of an untold story.

Disclaimer: in this post the characters and events are either the product of the author's imagination or they are used entirely fictitiously.

With Web2.0, the vision of the Internet-as-a-platform has become omnipresent, and its vocation understood. The ultimate goal of the Internet-as-a-platform is to create a universal, friction-free, flow of Information. As Thomas Baekdal correctly said, "The 'internet as a platform' is going to be replaced by the 'internet as a pipeline'".
In a pipelined world, the success of software companies – i.e. the pipes - is measured not by the amount of product downloads (aka, end-user clients), but rather by the number of times their Information has been reused, distributed and aggregated. Under this paradigm, there's no longer a distinction between a server and a client, a provider and a consumer: humans, machines and devices are all pipes in a platformed world. And the bottom-line is that APIs - the enzymes carrying the Information - will be prioritized over end-user clients (Ajaxed or not), as the later are stopping the Information circulation, while APIs enable reuse, syndication and distribution. Briefly, APIs are the bread and butter of a company's eco-system, and the following self-explained pictures and article by Phil Wolff from excellently demonstrate it.

This leads us, inevitably, to an essential, global, infrastructure service: the Directory.
As Alec Saunders concisely defined in his voice 2.0 manifesto, the three pillars of the future are "presence, directory, XML". Internet Directories, maintaining a list of mash-able APIs are a meeting/starting-point for entrepreneurs, innovators and simply bored geeks. If you want to participate in the Information creation and circulation, the APIs Directory is a reasonable place to start with. The current Internet Directories range from sheer yellow-pages, like programmableweb, through vendor-oriented Directories like the recently launched's AppExchange, to universal marketplaces such as StrikeIron.

I was therefore highly surprised to learn that IBM, SAP and Microsoft (the first two being "off-web" for a dangerously long period of time, and the later trying hard to get on the web2.0 platform) have decided last month to turn off the lights on their joint UDDI Business Registry (UBR) – the "father", as we like to say, of Internet Services Directories. The Trio claimed for a natural death, stating 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… …The UDDI Business Registry (the public UDDI demonstration registry) being discontinued."

My first reaction was – Guys, haven’t you heard about refurbishment? I mean, why throwing away an old veteran which can well be used as a foot in the web2.0 door?

Intrigued by this obscure logic, I decided to sniff around. First, I rechecked the UDDI goals, running through some historical documents. Here's an excerpt from October 4th, 2001:

SAP Fully Embraces UDDI. SAP Becomes UDDI Business Registry Operator

SAP will fully leverage UDDI for e-business solutions-- from providing SAP functionality for Web services to using services published through UDDI… SAP will make it possible to provide the application functions of the e-business platform as a service, which makes it easy for customers to provide this information externally through UDDI…

So UDDI has not been conceived as a demonstration registry, but rather as an active marketplace. I then checked how successful this marketplace has been:

Chris: "I'm actually a bit surprised that this announcement (the UBR Shutdown) didn't make more headlines. The real news here is that a UDDI registry still exists!"

Steve: "Like UDDI ever made any sense…If you are a service consumer, with your line-of-business systems dependent on remote, outsourced services, do you want a UDDI registry finding endpoints for you, or do you want a long lasting relationship with somebody you trust?"

Clearly not a hit...

I then told myself, that probably this ShutdownFAQ published by IBM is IBM's own interpretation, and that checking out what Microsoft and SAP say about the shutdown might yield other perspectives. But – surprisingly – both Microsoft and SAP Shutdown FAQ pages returned with a HTTP 404 kind of message. Is someone here destroying evidences?

UDDI, as we all knew, has been clinically dead for years now. So why did IBM, SAP and Microsoft decide to disconnect it now from the life-support machines? Unless this was not an Euthanasia… according to the bill of evidences collected so far, I suspect it was a cold-blood, first-degree, murder.

The UBR crime scene looks like this: a body; three suspects; lack of alibi (why disconnecting now, against all common web2.0 sense); two lies ("met its goals" and "demonstration registry"); and evidences removed from the crime scene (Shutdown FAQs removed). The only thing we lack now is - a motive.

My next post, which hopefully will be published early next week, will elaborate on the alleged, speculated, motive. I would hint that my thesis refers to an undergoing low-intensity war between two approaches for SOA Management. And as SOA is the present and definitely the future, there's a great deal of money at stake here. By killing UDDI, IBM, Microsoft and SAP wanted to eradicate an emerging, threatening rival, whose name is no other than… UDDI.

To be continued…

This is the first post in the UDDI series: You Only Live Twice - The Death and Life of UDDI, The Death and Life of UDDI, Part II, The Toolsmiths, The Manager, His Repository and Its UDDI Lover


Blogger Robert McIlree said...

There's a difference between the fact that the registry existed and what ir contained. If it contains things that aren't wanted, it matters little that it exists.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Muli Koppel said...

Hi Robert

Thanks for your comment.

Clearly, the UDDI Business Registry had no value for us – its potential business customers. But it has been a symbol, being one of the first three WS standards, along with SOAP and WSDL. Any action involving a symbol, is interpreted symbolically – and in the UBR shutdown case you could find many voices out in the Blogosphere interpreting the shutdown as "yet another nail in the WS-* coffin". As no one - especially not the Gorillas - goes public voluntarily to admit a failure, I believe that IBM et al. officially announced the shutdown in order to gain something – and not to lose. What's this something? I am starting to figure it out now, but that's my next post already…

Robert, thanks for following. I am also enjoying reading your own blog.


2:28 PM  
Blogger Robert McIlree said...


Thank you for your compliement! I agree that the UBR had symbolic value, but it would have eroded over time if it had continued not to provide any value.

I'll take a totally random guess that the 'something' you're referring to is the selling of granular services - out-services I believe they're called, and I'll leave it to you to post your thoughts...if I'm wrong, then you're post on that will be even more intriguing because I'm drawing a blank past that.

Bob McIlree

4:10 AM  

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