Service Aims to Ease XML Use

FAIRFAX, VA. (05/17/2000) - Later this year, WebMethods Inc. plans to launch a Web-based service to help corporations register e-commerce partners and let those partners exchange data with XML-based WebMethods e-commerce servers.

About 200 corporations, including Dell Computer Corp. and Grainger, have begun using the WebMethods B2B e-commerce server, which stores different document types and converts them into XML for delivery over the Internet. However, for trading partners to transmit and receive XML documents, they need the WebMethods B2B software for XML conversion. Manual distribution of this software has been very inefficient, WebMethods admits.

"We've been glossing over some of the challenges to making this integration happen," says Debbie Rosen, vice president of market development at WebMethods.

As an alternative to this time-consuming manual process, WebMethods is starting an online service that seeks to automate the procedure.

The service will work like this: The lead trading partner - a large buyer or an online marketplace trying to get suppliers to exchange purchase orders and shipping notices electronically - will encourage companies to register for e-commerce at WebMethods' www.b2b.com Web site.

After entering a user ID and password, each supplier will be welcomed as a first-time user, and then be asked to complete a questionnaire regarding business contacts and the nature of the company's enterprise resource planning systems for exchanging e-commerce data.

The next step will be to download business-to-business component software from WebMethods called B2B for Partners. The software will be preconfigured for use, based on the answers to the questionnaire.

"If the order system is Baan, for example, the integration module would be readied for that," Rosen says. The software, she says, will automatically install itself during download to convert back-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) data into XML for transmission to a WebMethods business-tobusiness server.

WebMethods also plans to provide downloads based on ERP systems from Oracle and PeopleSoft as well as IBM's MQ Series middleware, among other products. The B2B for Partners software will support XML e-commerce specifications defined by Ariba and Commerce One.

Last week, a number of consultants, including Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Andersen Consulting, EDS and Seranova, said they will each train about 100 consultants to work with the WebMethods service.

Ventro, an online marketplace for health-science and other products, and Eastman Chemical, which operates a trading portal, plan to test the B2B.com service. Both exchanges make use of the B2B server. Other marketplaces using the B2B server include e-STEEL and VerticalNet.

WebMethods: www.web methods.com.

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