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Selling corporate info on the Net

Cognos introduces DataMerchant 1.0, a tool that lets companies build applications for selling structured data through the Web.

Most companies have no problem filling up vast databases of corporate info, known as data warehouses, with detailed statistics on customer habits and spending patterns.

But getting that data out in a form that customers can use and that is secure enough to distribute over the Web is no easy feat.

Cognos, a maker of decision support and software development tools, has introduced DataMerchant 1.0, a tool that lets companies build applications for selling structured data through the Web.

The Windows NT-based server package hooks up to popular databases and allows companies to build Web storefronts for selling data on a subscription basis. The package is intended for companies already selling data on the Web and for companies that generate data as a primary business and are looking for a Web tool.

For instance, a market research company might use DataMerchant to provide detailed data to its customers on consumer spending habits. By entering a user name and password through a Web page, marketers could query databases to find out just how many CDs 18-to-24 year olds buy in a typical week, or other specific information, for example.

The package lets administrators assign data access privileges, called DataServices, which can include unique access and data pricing profiles. The DataMerchant package also lets administrators build Web storefronts and define Shopping Assistants, or Web-based query wizards that automatically retrieve data for users.

DataMerchant also connects to third-party e-commerce and billing systems, Cognos said.

For security, the package uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) integration and encryption.

The package sells for $65,000 per server. Support for Oracle, Sybase, and Microsoft database servers is included. Other databases are supported through ODBC connections.