January Editorial: Evolving in e-business: The Integrated Enterprise

e-business is expanding dramatically. Enormous growth in the volume and complexity of electronic transactions is requiring companies to transform themselves into an entirely new kind of organization – the integrated enterprise.

This transformation drives companies beyond the familiar terrain of online transaction processing. Many adopt an expanded information technology model that we know as e-transaction processing.

e-transaction processing is the technology infrastructure that enables the transformation and integration of end-to-end business processes using Internet technologies. It demands architectures that provide secure, highly available computing environments, capable of handling dramatic rises in transaction volumes and complexity.

e-transaction processing is not a product or an offering. It is an evolving e-business requirement aimed at producing tangible business returns, maximizing competitive advantage and providing the highest levels of customer satisfaction. e-transaction processing exploits new technologies that recognize the heterogeneous nature of any e-business and provides the means of tying together existing, cross-platform components.

Companies find their data centers already hold extremely valuable information about their customers, products and services. e-business adds a flood of new data. Manufacturers and retailers can use this data to cut costs and increase productivity and profitability. Banks, investment companies and government agencies can develop closer relationships with customers while optimizing marketing and maximizing security. With business intelligence applications integrated into its system, a company can mine its data to develop better ways to sell products and services. It can customize its operations so that it is no longer limited to reacting to market conditions but instead can reach out and build entirely new markets.

To achieve this level of efficiency, a company must make much of its data accessible to customers and business partners at all times. Beyond that, its IT infrastructure must enable the entire transactional process.

e-transaction processing demands the highest levels of quality of service to retain customer loyalty. Customer demands can be highly unpredictable, reaching peaks of 100 times the normal rate. Each transaction by a customer or vendor generates many transactions within the company and with distributors and suppliers. As technologies multiply in number and variety, building portals between consumers and business partners can present challenges.

In addressing these needs, some companies choose to build their IT systems in a distributed environment. They may purchase many small processors from one vendor and string together any number of servers from another vendor. A third vendor would enable the database. Acquiring tools to change business processes requires more vendors. Clearly, this leads to management challenges and high costs in people and equipment.

A company should begin building its information technology infrastructure for e-transaction processing by obtaining sound strategic advice from a full-service provider. The company and its provider can then construct the system around servers and software that provide the appropriate class of service at the right total cost of computing.

With a strategically designed technical framework for e-business, companies can select technologies tailored to their strategies. Message queuing, large-scale transactional managers, database systems and new languages, such as Java and data abstraction methods like XML, are among new technologies that can be integrated in the IT structure.

By continuing to enhance their existing systems as technologies advance, customers can keep pace with requirements for quality of service. Speeds are being increased by fiber connectivity and gigabit ethernet links. Built-in cryptographic processors are improving security. Scalability is growing with SMP, Non-Uniform Memory Access and Massively Parallel Processing alternatives. Highly available failover or continuous-operation systems are enabled by geographically dispersed clusters, such as IBM’s Parallel Sysplex clusters.

When technologies like these are integrated into its enterprise, a company will no longer have reason to fear the spikes in demand and the deluge of data that have caused problems for so many e-businesses. Instead, the integrated enterprise will be able to embrace these unknowns, turn the flood of data into valuable business information and manage its evolution successfully, leading to business advantage and greater profits.