Bluestone Beefs Up Its Web Application Server

Application servers have become a hot commodity for AS/400 Web development, and a new generation of tools promises to make it easier for e-commerce companies to get applications online. In December, Bluestone Software Inc. (Mt. Laurel, N.J.) plans to release a suite of tools that enables site managers to manage the content and e-commerce interactions at their sites.

Bluestone's Total-e-Business product suite has components for content management, personalization, and e-commerce with Bluestone's Sapphire/Web application server infrastructure and Bluestone's XML Suite integration server. "E-business is not e-commerce--it's just one component," says John H. Capobianco, senior VP of Bluestone's worldwide marketing. "E-business is about sales, profits, markets, brands and success. We believe it represents significant opportunities for companies that recognize this. When you represent yourself over the Internet, the relationship a customer has with you is your brand and the feeling of interaction. Total-e-Business offers a global-class platform that allows companies to nurture these relationships by placing fundamental control of the e-business enterprise in the hands of experts."

Bluestone is bullish on the AS/400 platform because of its inherent high performance, stable platform, integration, simplicity of design and ease of content delivery, says Capobianco. "The strength of the AS/400 platform is internal integration," agrees Yefim Natis, research director at GartnerGroup. "One thing that is needed on the AS/400 that has to come from outside is the capability for application integration. Getting the AS/400 integrated with the rest of the world is an essential problem for everyone."

XML will provide such integration opportunities, Natis continues. "The ability to use an XML interface to interoperate with AS/400 resources would be an interesting proposition for application integration. However, IBM is planning to very seriously invest in XML by adding this support to native AS/400. Other companies, such as Bluestone, will have to be cautious to maintain their market differentiation in light of this."

One e-commerce company that deployed Bluestone's Sapphire Web on an AS/400 is Strategic Weather Services (Wayne, Pa.), which provides long-range weather forecasting on its Web site. The online service is used by major retailers to predict weather for product purchasing, and by consumers for wedding or vacation planning. "We use Bluestone's Sapphire Web as the framework for our entire application," says Stephen Worden, VP of Network and Operations for Strategic Weather Services. "We also use an e-commerce mechanism if customers want to purchase a forecast outside the 30 days."

Strategic Weather Services evaluated another product before selecting Bluestone, but were impressed by its application development speed, performance speed and its stability and reliability, says Worden. The company will be using Total e-Business when it is released. The suite will eventually replace a home-grown Linux system that supports an existing forecast product sold to agricultural, energy and stock traders.

Features to be included in the upcoming release of Total-e-Business include pre-built e-commerce components that enable companies to conduct Web-based commercial transactions and set up all elements required for an e-commerce storefront. That includes catalogs, shopping cart, credit card processing, shipping and taxation. The suite will also include a personalization and recommendation engine that ensures that Web content is analyzed and targeted to a profile of each Web site visitor. A content management system allows non-programmers to create, collect, organize and administer content that will be published dynamically based on user profiles. The suite will also support pure Java.