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IBM to offer e-commerce integration software

Big Blue announces plans for new software that allows companies to link their different computing systems so they can exchange data and conduct business over the Web.

IBM is moving further into the fast-growing software integration business.

IBM today announced plans for new e-commerce software that allows companies to link their different computing systems so they can exchange data and conduct business over the Web.

With e-commerce between businesses exploding, companies need to build Web sites that link them with their customers, suppliers and partners, analysts said. That means companies need to tie together business software that was never meant to be integrated. The emerging software integration market is expected to grow from sales of $400 million in 1999 to $1.8 billion by 2002, according to analyst firm Gartner Group.

With today's move, IBM jumps further into a market where smaller players, such as Tibco, Neon Software, TSI and Vitria, have taken an early lead over bigger rivals Oracle, Microsoft and Sun, who are just entering the market.

"The 'Big Four' software companies are stepping in and saying, 'We're going to take this market seriously. Thank you, all you smaller vendors, for proving there is an incredible market for integration capabilities,'" said Hurwitz Group analyst Evan Quinn.

IBM today said it will ship in the late summer new software, called WebSphere B2B Integrator, that will let businesses use Extensible Markup Language (XML) to tie their computing systems together to do e-commerce.

As for the other giant software makers, Microsoft plans to enter the market later this year with a product called BizTalk Server, while Oracle has recently released its own product, called XML Integration Server. Sun recently acquired Forte Software, which makes software integration technology.

IBM, however, isn't new to software integration. Its popular MQSeries software is widely used by companies to allow their internal business applications, such as mainframe, financial and human resources software, to communicate.

"The B2B Integrator is IBM's large-scale attempt to offer integration capabilities," Quinn said. "IBM will claim they've been a serious player for a long time with MQSeries, but that's true only for integrating applications inside the same company."

IBM executives say the new B2B Integration Server, which features a mix of new and old IBM technology, will allow a single business to integrate its own applications but also allow companies to conduct and manage commerce with their partners over the Web.

Like its rivals' products, IBM's forthcoming B2B Integration Server relies heavily on XML, a Web standard for exchanging data. The product features IBM's newly-created XML specification that details a common way for companies to define and execute business contracts over the Web.

It will also include IBM's WebSphere application server, technology that runs transactions, and MQSeries messaging software, which is designed to ensure that information sent from a business application is delivered to its intended target. An insurance company, for example, can build a system that automatically routes claims to the appropriate department.