Information Builders, The Vision Factory Partner for E-commerce

Slightly over a year ago, ERP giant SAP America Inc. (Wayne, Pa., www.sap.com) announced the formation of an electronic commerce initiative, Pandesic Limited Liability Corp. (Sunnyvale, Calif., www.pandesic.com), with semiconductor giant Intel Corp. SAP expected to leverage its ERP expertise to create a homogeneous electronic commerce storefront solution based on Intel Corp. hardware.

The electronic commerce market has seen several such moves since the historic SAP/Intel initiative, and with the announcement of a formal technology and marketing alliance between Information Builders Inc. (New York, www.informationbuilders.com) and The Vision Factory Inc. (Scotts Valley, Calif., www.thevisionfactory.com), at least two more vendors have jumped into the fray.

According to the terms of the technology and marketing alliance, The Vision Factory’s Cat@log, a storefront creation and management suite, will be integrated with Information Builders' Enterprise Database Access (EDA) offerings, which provide access to more than 75 different databases, as well as support for IBM Corp. CICS and SAP ERP software.

Both companies indicate that the alliance will allow customers to create and operate Web storefronts that integrate with back office and enterprise data, especially SAP and CICS. In addition, Information Builders’ EDA middleware supports many different security systems and network architectures, including messaging, transaction processing, the Web, COM, Enterprise JavaBeans and CORBA component architectures.

"By integrating with Cat@log and aligning with The Vision Factory's professional services group, we are able to provide customers with technologies and value-added electronic commerce services that provide an end-to-end e-commerce solution," said Steve LoBosco, manager of electronic commerce solutions at Information Builders.

The Vision Factory’s Cat@log is a front-end application for creating custom Internet commerce sites by enabling the creation of a storefront and a shopping basket. In addition, Cat@log provides transaction services by accessing existing product and customer databases, wrapping the database tables and fields with commerce objects and controls, and then fine-tuning the presentation with standard HTML commands.

Cat@log is a unique offering in the area of e-commerce, analysts say. "Cat@log appears to be among the first open e-commerce solutions to offer an easy way to transition catalog-based businesses to the Web," observes Patricia Seybold, CEO of consultancy and publishing house Patricia Seybold Group (Boston). "It handles complex issues like legacy database integration and keeping online catalog pages automatically synchronized with database updates."

E-commerce functionality is one thing, but ensuring interoperability between newfangled e-commerce software and the legacy transaction processing systems, such as IBM, CICS or ERP packages such as SAP R/3, that are the backbone of many businesses is quite another. Therefore, whatever transaction processing and legacy systems integration functionality that Cat@log cannot provide natively will be supplied by Information Builders’ EDA middleware software and its myriad bridges to heterogeneous operating system environments.

"[We] feel [that] our complementary areas of expertise, and the joint solution we develop, will benefit diverse customers who are implementing storefront solutions linked to back-end databases," says David Jones, president of The Vision Factory.