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<nettime> VeriSign to Run EPC Directory
Alexander Galloway on Tue, 13 Jan 2004 23:13:25 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> VeriSign to Run EPC Directory

	[This was on slashdot today. This is a step forward in the fusion of
	global informatic protocols with consumer products. It's also
	important to note that the Object Name Service, a DNS-like lookup
	protocol, wasn't developed at the IETF, but instead at the industry
	group EPCglobal. -ag]

VeriSign to Run EPC Directory

EPCglobal has awarded the company a contract to manage the system for
looking up information related to Electronic Product Codes.

Jan. 13, 2004—EPCglobal, the organization that is commercializing
Electronic Product Code technology, has awarded Internet and
telecommunications infrastructure services provider VeriSign a contract
to manage the directory for looking up EPC numbers on the Internet.

VeriSign manages the core Domain Name Service (DNS) directory that
allows Internet users to look up the Internet Protocol address for Web
sites that end with .com. It was chosen because it has the
infrastructure needed to handle the vast number of EPC look-ups. Today,
VeriSign handles 10 billion DNS look-ups per day. Jon Brendsel, director
of products for the Naming and Directory Services division at Mountain
View, Calif.-based VeriSign, says the company's infrastructure can
handle 100 billion look-ups today.

"A lot of people have talked about the EPC Network as if it were a
fanciful concept that was developed by MIT and the Auto-ID Center," says
Brendsel. "We're starting to drive home the fact that it isn’t that
fanciful. It's based on technology that's here today, and it will be
available as of today."

Under the EPC Network system, each company will have a server running
its own Object Name Service (ONS). Like DNS, which points Web browsers
to the server where they can download the Web site for any particular
Web address, ONS will point computers looking up EPC numbers to
information stored on something called EPC Information Services—servers
that store information about products. Companies may maintain their own
EPC Information Services or subcontract it out, but it will use a
distributed architecture, with information about products in more than
one secure database on the Web.

Under the deal with EPCglobal, VeriSign will manage the EPC Network’s
root directory: The system that points computers to each company's ONS.
VeriSign has already set up the infrastructure at six sites around the
world. These are servers that maintain a registry of ONS servers.
Computers will access the registry via the Internet, and if one registry
goes down temporarily, a computer requesting information about an EPC
number will automatically be directed to another registry site,
guaranteeing 100 percent up time.

"This is a major step forward that gives momentum to the development of
the EPC Network," says Jack Grasso, a spokesperson for EPCglobal. "There
was a rigorous process for choosing the company to provide the service.
We think this will give subscribers more reason to get actively involved
in the development of the network."

One question some observers have had is whether the EPC Network will be
adopted or whether existing data synchronization services—such as UCCnet
and Transor—might provide the look-up services for EPC numbers. Wal-Mart
has said that, for now, it will use UCCnet's product registry and share
data with suppliers via Wal-Mart’s own extranet, called Retail Link.

EPCglobal's Grasso and VeriSign's Brendsel sees the EPC Network and
UCCnet as complementary. "I think it's important to look at them
separately," says Grasso. "As we learn more about the deployment of EPC
technology, needs are going to vary, the amount of data will be orders
of magnitude different than we’re used to, so I think to allow the EPC
Network to evolve as it needs to."

Brendsel says the two serve different functions. UCCnet is primarily a
product catalog that provides product information to ensure that
suppliers and retailers are sharing the same information related to a
single class of product. It is accessed via the Internet and could be
one source of data that the ONS points to on the EPC Network. But he
says that the UCCnet’s centralized system would be overwhelmed if you
had to refer to it every time you scanned an EPC tag.

VeriSign also announced the availability of managed services. It will
host ONS servers for customers and guarantee 100 percent availability.
It will also host EPC Information Services. Companies will be able to
establish rules for allowing partners to access information on the
service, and then VeriSign will control access and deliver information
to authorized parties. VeriSign will provide these services, which were
announced back in September, to customers for a fee. For more
information, see /article/view/557/1/1/ The EPC Network Gets Real>.

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