E-commerce system first on AKO

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Army Small Computer Program (ASCP) next month will complete an upgrade of MarketPlace Direct, making it the first e-commerce system directly accessible through the Army Knowledge Online (AKO) portal.

MarketPlace Direct is a governmentwide, Internet-based e-commerce solution that enables customers to identify, evaluate and purchase products and services against established information technology contract vehicles.

The ASCP MarketPlace Direct is designed to improve purchasing practices, reduce transaction costs and improve the overall customer experience, said Marian Keitelman, MarketPlace Direct team leader and product leader for ASCP. It includes a full range of products and services from hardware, software and peripheral products, to networking and infrastructure services.

The enhanced solution, which can be used by the Defense Department and other federal agencies and for foreign military sales, is being merged with ASCP's Web site to form what the Army is calling an IT enterprise-mart (IT e-mart).

"It will be seamless to the user, just like commercial sites," Keitelman said today during a speech at the ASCP IT conference.

In addition to being the first e-commerce solution directly linked to AKO, the new site will feature numerous enhancements including:

* Secure Sockets Layer throughout.

* Business-to-business integration, which will enable direct connections with vendor sites.

* Request for quotes from Army customers to industry, with ASCP ensuring timely responses.

IT e-mart users will also be able to obtain configuration assistance and review order status, and the new system is a candidate for the Army reverse proxy program, which is a security measure to protect against hackers, Keitelman said.

Appian Corp. is helping the Army build and refine the new site. The Vienna, Va.-based company was awarded a task order in January worth more than $1 million that includes software, hardware and consulting services.

Appian also built the AKO portal, and MarketPlace Direct is being built using an open, standards-based J2EE architecture, which will seamlessly integrate with the portal. AKO provides Army news, distance-learning opportunities, e-mail accounts, a search engine, chat capabilities and an enterprise collaboration center for service staff worldwide.

AKO registered users automatically will be registered into IT e-mart and a profile will be established, but outside users also can browse the catalogs and set up preliminary shopping carts before having to log in if they want to make a purchase, Keitelman said.

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