SSA Puts ERP on the Web

New technology is putting supply-chain systems on extranets, rather than private leased-line or dial-up networks. Now, System Software Associates Inc. (SSA) is introducing this approach to the AS/400 world, incorporating Internet capabilities into its BPCS ERP system. The vehicle for this integration is IBM's Net.Commerce server, which enables end-to-end electronic supply-chain transactions over the Internet.

SSA's solution, now available on AS/400e servers, enables pre-configured, out-of-the-box electronic supply-chain management true to the AS/400's mission, says Daniel Dibner, director of global alliances for SSA (Chicago). On most other platforms, such systems -- consisting of Web servers, firewalls and applications software -- require solutions from multiple vendors that need to be cobbled together.

Net.Commerce provides for integration between suppliers' and customers' systems, enabling online buying, selling, planning, forecasting, inventory status, warehousing and messaging. SSA also bundles technical support from IBM Global Services with the solution, Dibner says.

Adding Net.Commerce capabilities to BPCS helps enable real-time availability and order status information between partners' systems -- an essential feature in extranet-based supply chains. For example, "it's easy to set up an online catalogue, but it's hard to maintain one, especially if it has a million or more items," says Bill Childress, manager of electronic commerce for SSA. "In business-to-business and business-to-consumer environments, manual tracking and maintenance of multiple-item catalogues cannot be done efficiently or effectively. This tracking and management of information must be integrated with the overall enterprise application."

SSA's Electronic Commerce Manager and IBM's Java-based commerce extensibility framework and customized adapter serve as the interface between the BPCS Client/Server and IBM Net.Commerce. The framework and adapter are currently initial limited offerings with OS/400 V4R2. These tools deliver "Java-based business objects and unique adapters for targeted business system environments such as enterprise resource planning (ERP)," says Dave Liederbach, director of marketing with IBM Internet Division. The Java-based components provide interfaces with other electronic commerce applications as well.