IBM, Microsoft and Ariba are planning an XML-based standard that will allow thousands of vendors to register their businesses in a Web-based database that will help them match up with partners to carry out e-commerce transactions.
The three companies have come up with a standard called the Universal Description Discovery and Integration (UDDI). The group intends to ask a dozen or so other key companies in the industry to serve on an advisory board, and together evolve the specification over the next 12 to 18 months before turning it over to an open-standards body.
The proposed online database would allow a company to register all its basic corporate information, "much like you might find in a brochure or on a Web site", according to one source. Perhaps more importantly, a company can also register all the technical aspects of its e-business, such as the transport protocols it supports. The database will eventually be able to allow companies to automate the integration of a business-to-business (B2B) transaction.
The way businesses would integrate the technical aspects of their business now is to go through the labourious process of custom-coding large portions of their products to get them to work together seamlessly. But by searching the online database for the appropriate partners, companies can save time and money by contacting only those prospective partners with whom they best match.
Sources close to the initiative said the proposed specification gives Microsoft, typically reluctant to join such movements, a chance to look more solidly committed to open standards. Some also believe Microsoft is joining the trio because it feels it is somewhat behind in B2B products and industry alliances compared to IBM and Ariba.