IBM ups e-commerce offerings, partnerships

IBM Corp. last week announced new industry partnerships and enhancements to its Net.Commerce electronic-commerce server and catalog tool offerings that include increased scalability and performance.

The announcements should help users prepare for the anticipated increase in the use of e-commerce, according to IBM. "Customers need to be ready for the huge wave of opportunity that is coming at them, whether it's a retailer gearing up for the busy shopping season or an [organization] bringing more of its customers online," said Karl Salnoske, general manager for e-commerce at IBM Software Solutions.

In an effort to make Net.Commerce a more comprehensive platform, IBM announced that 10 companies will tailor their solutions to work on the new Net.Commerce Version 3.2 platform.

For example, Linguistic Technology will provide its EasyAsk eCom product for Net.Commerce. The product translates ordinary English queries into SQL so that customers and sellers can easily search a catalog database using criteria phrased in simple English.

In addition, Versifi Inc. said its v-Business Manager, which automates the process of transferring content to the Internet, intranets and extranets, is also compatible with Net.Commerce Version 3.2.

On the product side, IBM announced Version 3.2 of its Net.Commerce server software as well as its Catalog Architect tool for managing content in online catalogs.

Enhancements to Net.Commerce include support for Tivoli systems management, the ability to use Secure Socket Layer payment protocol more selectively and enhanced database access, caching and performance monitoring. Net.Commerce consists of different software components that enable agencies to sell goods and services through an electronic catalog on the Internet.

In addition, Catalog Architect 3.2 has been enhanced to include support for Extensible Markup Language, which will enable independent software vendors to combine their products with Catalog Architect to customize solutions. Other improvements include smart guides for importing data to improve user productivity.

Catalog Architect makes it easier for agencies to manage and update product information stored in online catalogs, categorizing them by things such as price, part number, size and color. The tool is designed to work with Net.Commerce.

"One of the big pieces is the breadth of partners IBM [announced]," said David Baltaxe, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc., Sterling, Va. "IBM is positioning itself to support its customers that are preparing for the busy holiday season. However, government agencies should be taking note of the new scalability capabilities and reliability capabilities, which help all customers."

The enhancements should prove useful for agencies when it comes to managing increased traffic on their online catalogs, he added.

IBM plans to add the new products to the General Services Administration schedule.

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