IBM, Ariba Partner to Bring B2B E-Commerce Solution to AS/400 Market

One of the fastest growing segments in the computer industry is e-commerce, as an IDC (Framingham, Mass.) report says the market will grow from $111 billion to $1.3 trillion by the year 2003. Leading the way is business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce, which the report says will account for 86 percent of that growth.

Continuing its efforts to position the AS/400 as a leading platform for e-commerce, IBM has joined forces with Ariba (Mountain View, Calif.) to launch a complete B2B e-commerce solution for suppliers—a new offering aimed at helping existing AS/400 users become B2B e-commerce enabled and also attracting new AS/400 customers.

The “IBM Start Now e-commerce Solutions for Ariba SupplierLive” enables suppliers to build an e-commerce site on the Internet that is automatically connected to multiple buyers and marketplaces on the Ariba Commerce Services Network. The Ariba B2B Commerce platform – an open, end-to-end infrastructure of interoperable software solutions and hosted Web-based commerce services -- enables efficient online trade, integration and collaboration between B2B marketplaces, buyers, suppliers and commerce service providers.

Immediately available from IBM business partners, this new solution is based on WebSphere Commerce Suite (serves as the e-catalog), runs on either the Netfinity or AS/400 platforms, and incorporates Cisco networking solutions (optional piece for customers that want a firewall).

“We’ve really turned up the focus on B2B e-commerce since December of 1999,” says Louise Hemond-Wilson, AS/400 e-business segment manager. “A lot of AS/400 customers are looking at implementing B2B e-commerce initiatives. We found out that there is a lot of pressure on IT managers to move into the B2B e-commerce space. However, a lot of them don’t know exactly how to undertake these initiatives. This end-to-end solution enables them to do that.”

According to Hemond-Wilson, there was a very simple reason that the two companies partnered. “Ariba came to us and said there were a lot of AS/400 suppliers that wanted to connect in to their network, but were having trouble doing so,” she says. “They had to write a connector code to access the Ariba network and this was taking them months to do and causing a lot of problems.”

To enable AS/400 and Netfinity servers to connect to the Ariba network, IBM and Ariba developed a connector piece (a set of servlets that do translations between CXML and the commands that WebSphere Commerce understands).

For existing AS/400 users with WebSphere Commerce Suite, the connector piece can be purchased free of charge from IBM. However, Hemond-Wilson believes the solution will ultimately result in a lot of AS/400s being sold. “Customers that need to implement an e-catalog usually will want to put it on another box,” she says. “There will be some who just purchase the connector code, but a lot of companies will purchase another AS/400.”

One of the main selling points of the “IBM Start Now e-commerce solution for Ariba SupplierLive” is that it gets a company up and running in 45 days, a factor that IBM is hoping will enable it to attract new AS/400 customers. “The simplicity of getting live in 45 days is very attractive to companies that do not currently have an AS/400,” says Hemond-Wilson. “There’s a lot of companies that want to become B2B e-commerce enabled.”

Currently, Hemond-Wilson says there are over 70 B2B e-commerce applications or tools available for AS/400 customers. The IBM-Ariba solution differentiates itself in one simple way. “This is one of the first comprehensive offerings that we have,” she says. “The heritage on the AS/400 is making things easier, so we fell that this comprehensive offering fits in very well with our strategy. The speed-to-market is a very big advantage of this offering. So far, we’ve gotten great receptiveness to our Ariba announcement.”

Looking ahead, Hemond-Wilson says the IBM-Ariba offering is a sign of things to come. “The AS/400 is an incredible B2B e-commerce server,” she says. “Comprehensive offerings are definitely going to become a bigger focus for us in the future. We’re going to keep pushing and keep the focus on B2B in the AS/400 market.”

Related Information:

  • IBM Start Now Page (new window)
  • Ariba (new window)
  • Ariba B2B Commerce Platform Overview (new window)
  • Ariba Commerce Services Network Overview (new window)