Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Web services in B2B applications may need a “provisioning” process. Web services are designed to provide open, ad-hoc, access to an application by means of a standard set of interfaces that customers can simply “discover” and query to gain access. The Web services standard that provides open discovery is called UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration). Although most Web services so far have been deployed behind the firewall to enable integration of internal systems, some large-scale implementations of Web services are begining to emerge and are testing the approach of open discovery.

One such example is the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), with its Web services interface to its enrollment database under development. With hundreds of thousands of employers, credit card companies, and insurers needing rapid access to NSC’s database to determine whether someone is currently enrolled in an institution, web services would seem a natural way to provide integration.

At first NSC attempted to use UDDI to allow customers to dynamically establish integration but found that it was not sufficient to handle the multiple steps required to set up a new customer. NSC found that a “provisioning” process would be needed to initially establish service level agreements, transport protocols, and security. NSC is now pilot testing Web services management tools from Flamenco Networks to provide security and network management capabilities for new customer provisioning.

It appears that the dynamic discovery approach offered by UDDI may be most appropriate for general purpose, ad-hoc, public Web services. But for business-to-business applications, with established trusted trading partners, a more robust and complex process of “provisioning” is required.

InternetWeek has the report.

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