Net.Commerce 3 SETs Course for AS/400 e-Business

With the addition of support for an industry-standard, SET-supporting payment server and several features enabling seamless back-end enterprise integration, Version 3 of IBM's Net.Commerce takes AS/400 e-business to the next level.

Net.Commerce Version 3 for AS/400 now enables the building of a complete virtual store online, including creation of a catalog and Web site, payment processing and order fulfillment. Beginning June 11, a payment server becomes a standard feature within Net.Commerce, using the SET (Secure Electronic Transaction) protocol to manage online payment processing.

IBM is counting on new features like the store creation wizard, payment server, Lotus Domino integration, advanced catalog tools and back-end integration tools to prompt the AS/400 market to give Net.Commerce careful consideration.

A large portion of the AS/400 market has not yet been exposed to Net.Commerce, even though Version 2.0 has been available since late summer of 1998, according to Suzi Shaw Lyons, IBM's AS/400 e-business marketing manager. "Certainly the number [of users who] have taken advantage of it is in the hundreds, not the thousands, which, when you look at the size of our installed base, is fairly small," she says.

Net.Commerce provides the AS/400 market with a tool for creating a total e-commerce solution -- from catalog and site creation on through to managing the store and tracking orders, payment processing and order fulfillment, according to Lyons. "Net.Commerce [for AS/400] Version 2 wasn't that easy to install and setup. So, when you look at things like the store creation wizard, which has a set of pre-defined templates, it's going to make it that much easier for AS/400 customers to get started in e-commerce with Net.Commerce," she says.

The purpose behind the pre-defined store templates is to enable users to build their e-businesses without having to concern themselves with creating the appearance of the store, how orders are handled and how the buying experience progresses. "Clearly, a large number of customers are now doing seamless e-business, and we're working with a number of solutions providers who provide end-to-end solutions that integrate their ERP or business management systems with e-commerce capabilities and customer relationship management and other e-business solutions," Lyons points out.

"If you look at Net.Commerce itself, it has not had a significant penetration into either our ISV or customer communities yet, though that is significantly growing," Lyons adds, saying, "Pretty much anyone who bought Version 2 bought it with an eye to move to Version 3 when it became available. That'll be relatively painless for them because there's no charge to upgrade from Version 2 to Version 3."

One company with plans to install Net.Commerce 3.0 by the end of June is Duck Head Apparel Company Inc., a 150-year-old Winder, Ga.-based manufacturer of casual men's and boy's sportswear. While Duck Head is well-known in the Southeastern United States and some other areas of the country, the company is hoping Net.Commerce will help open its doors to global exposure.

Of all Net.Commerce 3.0's features, the enhanced catalog design capabilities made the strongest impression on Henry Greene, Duck Head's director of IS. "We're doing direct consumer selling right now," he says. "We're looking for the improvements they've made in the catalog design, credit card processing and the interface into Domino."

Duck Head has been using Net.Commerce in production since August 1998. Greene says the fact that Duck Head was already running on an AS/400 contributed greatly to the company's choice to implement Net.Commerce on its Model 40S AS/400 Web server. "One of the business decisions we made going in is that we must integrate any e-commerce site in with our back-office processes and not add any additional overhead to the orders we receive electronically," he says.

Since Duck Head developed its own enterprise resource planning-type solution in-house, the company was also looking for a tool that could integrate a non-standard application package with its e-business initiatives. Greene says this integration may eventually extend to the J.D. Edwards (Denver) financials package Duck Head recently installed as well.

Greene expects Version 3 of Net.Commerce will also enhance the query production capabilities available with IBM's Net.Data, a tool enabling Web applications to access and manipulate data regardless of location or format. "We are also planning on doing some business-to-business Web site development," he adds. "We don't have the time or the resources to make the visits to specialty stores that we sell to on as regular a basis as we need to, nor do they have the infrastructure in place to have a large EDI department."