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Ariba, Ernst & Young team in e-commerce venture

The software maker says it has entered a deal with the Big Five consulting firm to provide business-to-business e-commerce services to corporate customers.

Software maker Ariba and Big Five consulting firm Ernst & Young today said they formed a partnership to provide business-to-business e-commerce services to corporate customers.

Under the terms of the agreement, Ernst & Young and Ariba, which develops software for buying and selling goods and services online, will jointly sell and market business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce software, services and systems integration, the companies said in a statement.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Today's alliance marks the latest move into the heavily touted B2B e-commerce market by a traditional management consulting firm. Recently, Ernst & Young competitors Andersen Consulting and EDS, the computer services giant, threw their hats into the market as they continue to fulfill a broader strategy of revamping themselves into viable Internet players.

Earlier this month, Ariba teamed with EDS to build B2B trading exchanges. Under the subsidiary, called EDS CoNext, the professional services giant said it will use Ariba's B2B e-commerce software to link groups of partners and suppliers that want to purchase goods and services over the Internet, targeting several vertical industries. Both Andersen and EDS have also recently launched venture fund business units focused on B2B investments and Internet start-ups.

Analysts have said the B2B market, which has been widely perceived as the next big thing on the Internet, is projected to reach the trillion dollar mark by 2003.

As part of today's agreement, Ernst & Young also said it will become a certified Ariba systems integrator partner and preferred implementer of Ariba B2B e-commerce software and services.