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IBM, Ariba unveil software package for suppliers

The computing giant and the software maker want to reach companies looking to quickly develop a Web site that will automatically connect to partners, buyers and marketplaces.

Computing giant IBM and software maker Ariba today unveiled a new bundled suite of products and services to help midsized suppliers conduct transactions over online marketplaces.

As previously reported, the companies are offering one-stop shopping to suppliers looking to quickly develop a Web site that automatically connects to partners, buyers and marketplaces that participate on the Ariba network.

Dubbed the "IBM Start Now E-commerce Solution for Ariba SupplierLive," the package includes IBM hardware, middleware software, services and support, coupled with a direct connection to Ariba's network of online marketplaces. Cisco Systems will provide the networking equipment.

The product is available immediately through reseller channels of IBM and Cisco, the companies said. Pricing was not disclosed.

Mitch Kramer, an industry analyst at Boston-based Patricia Seybold Group, said the new IBM-Ariba package is attractive to small suppliers that don't necessarily have a quick and affordable way to participate in multiple marketplaces.

"The key aspect of this offering is that it brings (business-to-business) e-commerce to a set of companies that really only had access to it through hosting types of arrangements that weren't attractive and?not flexible," Kramer said.

Software products from Commerce One and Ariba "have been targeted at the high-end of the market. This is starting to bring it down-market and really allow the small suppliers in the market to participate" in several online trading networks, he said.

The products are also centered on IBM's WebSphere line of Internet products. WebSphere allows companies to integrate enterprise applications and process electronic transactions over the Web.

The joint product is the first in a series that will be delivered by the two companies. The IBM Start Now program is designed to help IBM business partners quickly kick off their e-commerce products and services for their customers. IBM said it is working with OnLink and Profile Systems to provide additional Start Now bundled suites focused on online order accuracy and data collection, respectively.

Meanwhile, through its Ariba SupplierLive program, the software maker wants to help suppliers quickly conduct business with their trading partners by offering them a preconfigured set of tools and services, allowing them to connect with buyers and marketplaces on its network.

In March, IBM and Ariba signed a partnership to provide a wide range of services to companies that wanted to take their business online. At the time, Big Blue also took an equity stake in Ariba.

Like several technology providers in recent months, IBM and Ariba have been busy tackling the lucrative market of business-to-business e-commerce, primarily by developing massive online marketplaces. For the most part, online marketplaces help link businesses with their suppliers and partners and aim to reduce internal purchasing costs and the paperwork involved by moving the process to the Web.

Leading research companies expect the business-to-business e-commerce market to be worth between $2.7 trillion and $7.3 trillion by 2004, up from about $131 billion in 1999.