Exchange-in-a-Box for B-toB; Vendors Vie to Supply

SAN MATEO (05/20/2000) - Looking to establish their offerings as the building blocks of e-marketplaces, IBM Corp., Intershop, and iPlanet -- the Sun-Netscape e-commerce alliance -- released platforms and tools last week that will enable enterprises to launch business-to-business e-marketplaces.

IBM's release of the WebSphere Commerce Suite, Marketplace Edition, a bundle designed to help businesses quickly set up shop and handle high transaction volumes, is intended to position the WebSphere application-server platform as standard building material for online exchanges and marketplaces.

The Intershop and IBM announcements represent an important trend, the convergence of commerce applications with e-marketplace platforms, according to Shawn Willett, an analyst at Current Analysis, in Reston, Virginia.

Similar to last week's other offerings, Intershop Marketplace Toolkit is a repackaging of commerce tools, Willett said, including Intershop enfinity, sell-side e-commerce software; Intershop ePages, self-service e-commerce on sell-side marketplaces; and Intershop Marketplace Connector, a development tool for exchanging catalog and transaction data with marketplaces.

Although none of the offerings present a complete solution, Willett noted that the alliance between Sun and Netscape has provided iPlanet with many of the tools Internet market makers want.

"iPlanet has a lot of the Netscape applications and a few of the Sun infrastructure products. They have a lot of the pieces that Net market makers want," Willett said. He added that iPlanet has several natural advantages over competitors such as Oracle, including its open platform and ease of development.

"The iPlanet advantage is that they're really building on an industry Java standard -- it's more of an open platform. Oracle claims that they're Java-based, too, but Oracle tends to want to link you into a lot of specific Oracle technology," Willett said.

However, IBM's professional services represent an advantage over iPlanet, according to Willett. "I would say that IBM also has professional services and the reputation. IBM doesn't have all the application components, but they're big enough that they can borrow a lot of these pieces," Willett said.

Although IBM has strategic alliances with Ariba and i2 Technologies for end-to-end marketplace configurations that include procurement and supply-chain functions, the WebSphere Marketplace Edition does not overlap with such implementations, according to Ed Kilroy, general manager of e-commerce at IBM.

IBM Corp., in Armonk, New York, can be reached at www.ibm.com. Intershop Communications, in San Francisco, can be reached at www.intershop.com. iPlanet, part of the Sun-Netscape Alliance, in Mountain View, California, can be reached at www.iplanet.com.

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