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Sun-Netscape alliance preparing another e-commerce offering

The iPlanet Commerce Integration Suite, to be released in November, will allow businesses to establish links with customers and business partners.

The Sun-Netscape alliance will soon ship a suite of e-commerce software that allows businesses to more easily forge electronic links with customers, suppliers, and business partners.

The suite consists of two existing Netscape products: the Netscape Application Server and a new version of its ECXpert software, which manages transactions over the Internet.

The Sun-Netscape combination is an outgrowth of a complex arrangement hammered out in March when America Online purchased Netscape for $10 billion.

The bundle will allow businesses to easily connect with each other and to trade information. At the heart of the package is the Netscape Application Server, software that runs the transactions between the Web browser and back-end services, such as databases and human resources programs.

The suite also will feature a new version of Netscape ECXpert, which includes messaging software, directory software for managing users, and a Web server. The new version of ECXpert supports Extensible Markup Language (XML), a Web standard that is used to transmit formatted data.

The bundle, called the iPlanet Commerce Integration Suite, will ship in November and cost $115,000 per processor.

The partnership has also created a new product that sits on top of the application server and runs a company's "business processes." For example, if an e-commerce firm requires that all orders of $1 million or more be approved by a specific person, the software will ensure that he or she is notified when a large order is received.

Called the Netscape Application Server: Process Automation Edition, it will ship in November and cost $125,000 per processor.

The alliance expects to release additional e-commerce products as it competes with established players such as Microsoft and IBM. The alliance has an arsenal of products it can bundle, including software for paying bills and exchanging invoices or purchase orders.

"We have a lot of good products for the Internet infrastructure and what we're trying to do is group them together to meet customers' requirements," said Susan O'Connor, a group product manager for the alliance.

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