WWRE taps IBM and webMethods for integration

WorldWide Retail Exchange LLC today announced its selection of IBM Corp. and webMethods Inc. to provide the integration that technology members will need to participate in its business-to-business electronic marketplace.

The two vendors will provide technology to support the internal application-to-application integration of the exchange's core product and services platform, as well as the business-to-business integration between the exchange and its members, according to the statement by WorldWide Retail Exchange (WWRE).

Alexandria, Va.-based WWRE said it expects Fairfax, Va.-based webMethods to provide it with "a combination of enterprise application integration and business process management capabilities." It also said IBM will work with WWRE and its members to offer WebSphere software, "which enables users to create, execute and manage business processes."

No further details were available before deadline, and WWRE was unable to arrange an interview with a spokesperson for further comment.

WWRE boasts some of the world's largest retailers among its 59 members, including Albertson's Inc., Best Buy Co., CVS Corp., The Gap Inc., J.C. Penney Co., Kmart Corp., Rite Aid Corp., Safeway Inc., Target Corp. and Walgreen Co.

Janet Suleski, an analyst at Boston-based AMR Research Inc., said WWRE has been making lots of systems selections during the last four months. "It indicates that WWRE has made it past that first stage of existence and is now moving into a very healthy second stage," she said.

During a year when many business-to-business exchanges have been struggling, the vendor selection represents progress, said Randy Covill, another analyst at AMR. "It's not that selecting a vendor is a guarantee of success. But if you're not doing that at all, then you can't advance to the next level of services," he said. "People are selecting these vendors because it will enable them to provide more services to their members."

But Ken Vollmer, an analyst at Cambridge, Mass., based Giga Information Group, said it's unusual for a customer to select two different vendors for its integration functionality. He also expressed puzzlement at the selection of webMethods and IBM, given that both propose to manage business processes. "Something doesn't make sense," he said.

"Normally, [an] organization will always, always try to zero in on one [vendor] organization to limit the potential for finger-pointing and problems if the implementation doesn't go right," Vollmer said. "It's much easier to work with one vendor than it is [to work with] two. So in this case, it would seem like this type of arrangement could easily serve to complicate the implementation process."

Asked about that, a WWRE spokesperson said in an e-mailed response: "One of the primary advantages the WWRE brings to its members is a technology agnostic approach -- one in which we look to the best technology for our members without preferential treatment for any of our vendors. By selecting both IBM and WebMethods as our providers, we can ensure that our members have flexibility and a choice between compatible technologies and that they can select the middleware solution that is best suited to their particular infrastructures."

WWRE said in its statement that by using the webMethods and IBM products, it hopes to lower integration and implementation costs, improve collaboration among trading partners, simplify the integration of WWRE applications to member legacy systems and accommodate disparate applications and technologies across its global membership base.

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