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Microsoft and IBM squabble over standards

Microsoft, IBM and Ariba, the three companies spearheading an initiative to ensure B2B exhanges run on an open standard, have come to an impasse over which body the protocol they've come up with should be submitted to.
Written by Sonya Rabbitte, Contributor

Microsoft, IBM and Ariba, the three companies spearheading an initiative to ensure B2B exhanges run on an open standard, have come to an impasse over which body the protocol they've come up with should be submitted to.

The trio have been working on the UDDI (universal description, discovery and integration) initiative since last September, with the aim of creating an international directory of B2B firms, based on an open XML standard. Technology heavyweights such as HP, Oracle and Sun have since jumped on board. The standard should allow all B2B exchanges to operate with each other effectively. Version 1.0 is due for public release in early May after nine months of beta-testing, but unlike the two other XML protocols - SOAP (simple object access protocol) and WSDL (web services description language) - UDDI has not yet been submitted to an independent standards body, such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), for review. According to Kevin Malone, software technical strategist with IBM, the UDDI protocol is in full working order, but internal squabbles between the three founding companies have delayed submission to a standards body. He said: "It's unfair to say we create our own standards. But one or two partners could be accused of that. In UDDI IBM has pulled Microsoft kicking and screaming into the world of open standards. There is still some discussion between the various vendors on which is the best standards body." Microsoft and Ariba were not available for comment. SOAP, an IBM-Microsoft collaboration, was recently adopted as a global B2B standard by the UN-backed standards body Oasis. It's already gained the approval of the W3C. According to Malone, the UDDI initiative is a much bigger project plagued by extra problems. However, he remains confident it will come together. "At the end of the day there are people and personalities involved. Traditionally Microsoft hasn't been interested in standards, but they've woken up and jumped on it now. Nine months ago we would never have foreseen this progress with them," he said. But Alan Lawson, research analyst with the Butler Group, warned that a delay in submitting the UDDI protocol for review could be a mistake. "We need open standards and the more people involved the quicker it will become useful. There is the danger UDDI could be viewed as a proprietary standard as everyone fights to have their one made the de facto standard, and that would be a mistake," he said.
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