GCS Ports Its E-Commerce Apps to Mainframe

Global Commerce Systems Inc. (GCS, www.commerce.com) ported its e-commerce application suite to IBM Corp.’s OS/390. Unlike many in the industry, GCS presents the e-commerce move to the mainframe as strategic rather than tactical.

"If you look at where large business has their information services running, today 66 percent run on a mainframe environment," says Jeff Jordan, GCS’ chief operating officer. Jordan was citing Fortune 1000 companies in GCS’ target markets of manufacturing, telecommunications and financial services. "The mainframe provides the most reliable business environment and the companies have the IS staff that have been running it day in and day out."

The GCS Internet products and services address trade cycle sourcing, procurement and payment systems management, real-time administration of credit card payment accounts, automated commercial communications campaign management, targeted marketing and customer self service and sales.

Jordan compares the reliability of mainframes to Unix and Windows NT, two platforms GCS has been providing its solutions on since 1997. He says OS/390 has 10 minutes of downtime a year, Unix has 23 hours and Windows NT has 232 hours. "If you look at the brokerage area, for example, we see some pretty negative impact for when those systems go down," Jordan says.

GCS claims its Internet solutions build on the partitioning and security capabilities of mainframes to prevent any compromise of the stability of the platform. The products also exploit OS/390s Java capabilities by using the cross-platform language. "IT individuals want to be moving to new environments," Jordan says. "They don’t want to be writing COBOL for the rest of their lives."

As support for GCS’ position that mainframes aren’t fading in importance, Jordan points to IBM’s sales figures for the first 100 days of this year: Big Blue sold 1,000 G5 processors for the 390 series.

The analyst community, however, is skeptical that mainframe e-commerce applications have much more of a place than as short-term conversions from mainframe systems.

"Mainframes, S/390 or other variations, have been around for a long time," says Albert Pang, an analyst at International Data Corp. (IDC, www.idc.com). "They will probably be the engine for some e-commerce sites, but I think the trend is toward NT and Unix. There’s no way around it."

IDC’s statistics show mainframes in 1998 accounted for 18.4 percent of the worldwide services supply chain industry applications, which include those used in banking, retail and health care. The growth rate for mainframes was about 2.8 percent. Windows NT accounted for 16 percent of the market and was growing at a 28.3 percent rate.

"I’m not ruling [GCS] out. It seems that they’re trying to meet the needs," Pang says. "But I don’t think this would presage a trend for a lot of e-commerce application vendors."

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