GM adopts J2EE platform for e-commerce site

General Motors Corp. announced Tuesday that it plans to incorporate a J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition)-based e-commerce platform into its GMBuyPower Web site, a site launched nationwide by the auto-maker in 1999 that allows customers to shop for cars online.

Ryndee Carney, communications manager for GM, says this move is less about revamping the site than about having the ability to change and update it easily on a global scale.

"The way GMBuyPower is today, it's kind of like a patchwork quilt -- we've patched together a whole bunch of different legacy systems and software packages and online solutions from markets around the world and over time," Carney says. The problem is that, for example, if the site needs to add regulatory information about one particular country, the whole site has to be changed.

With the J2EE-based system, which GM purchased from RedCelsius Inc., an Atlanta-based e-commerce solutions developer, GMBuyPower can simply update whatever country specific-information needs to be changed. In addition, the system can accommodate a wide range of different typographical characters, allowing the site to offer a variety of language options. Carney says with the new system in place, the site will serve about 40 countries by year-end, up from the 15 currently served by the site.

"It's more of a modular approach so we can change parts of the Web site without having to redesign the whole thing," she says. "So it will be more like a blanket -- if you stay with that metaphor -- instead of a crazy quilt.

Jim Watson, CEO of RedCelsius, said yesterday's deal with GM represented a tremendous opportunity for his company.

"Our Advanced FirePower Architecture addresses GM's need for scalability and rapid customization to support quick localization, as well as support of multiple currencies," Watson said in a press release announcing the deal. "RedCelsius' solution provides maximum flexibility and adaptability due to our commitment to open standards through J2EE."

The purchase will also allow GM affiliates Isuzu, Fiat, Fuji and Suzuki to use the platform for their Web operations. Carney refused to comment on any of the financial aspects of the deal.

The site, Carney explains, doesn't allow consumers to purchase cars over the Internet because doing so, it turns out, is forbidden in the United States. Instead, site visitors can explore different models, customize a car they'd like a dealer to order, check existing dealer inventories in their areas or schedule a test drive.

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