HP Joins B2B Web Directory Initiative

After some hesitation, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HWP) announced Thursday that it will go through with plans to join a consortium of high-tech heavyweights that hopes to create a virtual reference directory for e-commerce.

The Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) project was begun two months ago by Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and several other companies. However, HP chief executive officer Carly Fiorina had signaled in September that her company was “judiciously evaluating” the pros and cons of joining the UDDI project.

HP said that it decided to join the UDDI initiative after a number of meetings clarified how the UDDI would be developed.

“A new generation of software is being developed to facilitate the emerging services-based computing model,” said Bill Russell, vice president and general manager for HP’s Software and Solutions Organization. “If as an industry we’re truly committed to delivering on the real promise of technology, then the technologies must be open, standards-based initiatives.”

Broad Endorsements

Along with Microsoft, UDDI was started by Ariba (Nasdaq: ARBA) and IBM (NYSE: IBM), and has been developed as an open protocol that has attracted over 75 e-commerce companies, including Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) and SAP.

Under UDDI, businesses will be able to use unified protocols for identifying products and services, theoretically facilitating business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce by allowing companies to find each other quickly on the Web.

Because of its open nature, UDDI is not owned by any one company and is instead guided by a consortium of industry members.

Project Going Live Soon

At the moment, the UDDI registry is not online, but the organization expects the first phase of the project to be ready as early as next week.

Future updates to the registry are expected to occur in March and December of next year, with more complex B2B services being added with each revision. For example, future UDDI versions are expected to address trading agreements, service standards and business process workflow.

Microsoft, Ariba and IBM have said that they will maintain the system for the next eighteen months before handing the nuts and bolts of the operation to another organization, to be determined at a future date.

HP’s Contribution

As part of the effort to get the project moving, HP said it expects to contribute intellectual property — including the e-services platform “e-speak” that the company released in May 1999 — to the consortium with the goal of accelerating the UDDI development schedule.

HP added that it also plans on bringing customers and partners into the consortium.

“We are pleased with HP’s decision to bring their expertise in Web services to the UDDI Project and look forward to the contribution of their e-speak technology,” said Marie Wieck, IBM’s vice president for Software Strategy. “This builds further momentum for UDDI, and customers will benefit by having the industry unite around this important e-business specification.”

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