User response slow to new B-to-B directory

IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp. haven't drummed up much end user interest in the Yellow Pages-style directory they launched this week, and that's critical to the success of both vendors' technology road map.

Only a dozen or so user firms are among the group of about 260 companies, mostly vendors, that have publicly pledged to register services in the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) directory. And those few end user supporters aren't on the same page regarding the directory's value.

"We haven't decided whether we'll publish our Web services," said Patrick Gutmann, business-to-business e-commerce officer at ABN Amro Bank NV, a division of ABN Amro Holding NV. Gutmann said the US$44 billion Amsterdam-based financial services company hasn't defined how it will use the directory, but he joined the UDDI community to get in on the ground floor in setting standards and shaping the registry.

Wayzata, Minn.-based Cargill Inc., a $47 billion agricultural giant, and New York-based American Express Co., are both among the founding members of UDDI. But neither firm would discuss their plans to use the directory, nor have they registered services.

Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said there's still time for IBM and Microsoft to drum up end user support for UDDI.

"UDDI is not a must-do or die in 2001," said Schadler. "Companies need to look at this, because it's the most cost-effective way to make applications and services available over the Web, and there will be tremendous tools and infrastructure support from the vendors."

Smaller end user companies also voiced skepticism about the necessity of sharing information about Web services in a public directory.

"If we design a Web service, it's nothing that we're going to want to open up and allow our competitors to get a hold of," said Rob Kogan, vice president of MIS at Nautilus Insurance Co., a general liability and property insurance firm in Scottsdale, Ariz. "We're very closed about our technology and will be in the future because technology is a key differentiator in our market segment."

Publishing Web services in UDDI makes sense for only the biggest companies that dominate their marketplaces, said Jim Miller, chief technology officer at Creditex Inc., a New York-based seller of derivatives to large investment banks, such as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Credit Suisse First Boston.

"Comparatively, we're a small fish," Miller said. "The big fish will say, 'Here's the defined service. If you want to play with us, you have to match up.' " But the outlook for UDDI is by no means bleak.

The Boeing Co., for example, also plans to support UDDI, though the Seattle-based aerospace firm hasn't determined what services to publish.

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