Harbinger Lays Down E-Commerce Pipeline

Fulfilling phase two of a three-phase Internet e-commerce strategy announced in February, Harbinger Corp. (Atlanta), made available in April a security and messaging technology for its IP-based business-to-business transaction portal, Harbinger.net.

Called Pipeline, the new client/server messaging software allows trading partners using Harbinger.net to securely exchange e-commerce transactions with third-party applications over the Internet and private IP networks. The Pipeline client is integrated with the company's TrustedLink EDI translation software, available for a range of platforms, including the AS/400, Windows and Unix.

Phase three of the Harbinger initiative, planned for later this year, will be formation of a research and development division that will focus on the delivery of new standards and technologies for Internet e-commerce.

Aimed at making Internet e-commerce low-cost, convenient and secure, Pipeline builds on Harbinger.net's IP and HTTP connectivity foundation by adding Secure Socket Layer (SSL) to ensure message confidentiality, and the E-5 message format developed as part of the Automotive Network Exchange (ANX) initiative. The E-5 standard offers secure, session-oriented data exchange along with network management services.

"We've taken a 'best-of-breed' approach by putting IP and HTTP together with SSL to encrypt messages, and E-5 message format. IP has become the preferred choice for trading partners and HTTP is a proven, reliable connection. Pipeline will be our default connectivity method for TrustedLink on the AS/400 and other platforms by the end of the year," says Eric Christ, senior director of Harbinger.net.

Pipeline supports file transfer of CAD/CAM, EDI, binary, standard ACS flat files or XML data to the Harbinger.net portal, and has a published, open interface to facilitate seamless integration with Harbinger-developed and third-party e-commerce applications, including a Component Object Model (COM) interface for integration with Microsoft applications, according to Harbinger sources.

Pipeline should let more companies take advantage of the Internet for exchanging sensitive EDI information. In particular, those seeking to move their legacy trading-partner communications to IP-based technologies could benefit from the technology. In fact, Harbinger expects more than 50 percent of its network traffic will move to IP connectivity by the end of 1999. In contrast, only 15 percent of the company's transactions were IP-based in the first quarter of 1999. All new customers will be strongly encouraged to use the Pipeline technology. "We consider Pipeline an open standard using existing off-the-shelf standards. We're moving rapidly toward IP as the underlying platform," Christ adds.

Pipeline provides an attractive alternative to costly value added network (VAN) services, which only a small percentage of companies can afford, says Bob Parker, research director at AMR Research (Boston). "Public networks and IP are more inclusive and more convenient than VANs, and Pipeline provides the security, reliability and non-repudiation of a VAN on an IP network. In addition, its open APIs, will let smaller companies connect their back-end systems to their trading partners."

Historically, trading partners used VANs or private networks to ensure security and proper message routing when they exchanged messages. Now, AS/400 shops can safely use the Harbinger.net e-commerce portal and TrustedLink with Pipeline to conduct business over the Web. "Pipeline is designed to ensure that even over this public connection, security is not an issue." says Cindy Harper, Harbinger's senior director of marketing.