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Sterling unveils e-commerce offerings

The vendor announces new e-commerce and secure communications software and services for business-to-business commerce over the Internet.

At its annual customer conference, e-commerce software vendor Sterling Commerce announced a slew of new e-commerce and secure communications software and services for business-to-business commerce over the Internet.

Today's announcements followed news Tuesday that Sterling intends to buy Singapore-based Network Integration System's e-commerce software and consulting businesses as part of its global expansion strategy. NIS has distributed Sterling Commerce's Gentran e-commerce software. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

The new acquisition follows last month's deal in which Sterling Commerce paid $200 million to buy XcelleNet, which markets remote access software.

"I think of Sterling Commerce as one of the more advanced of traditional EDI [electronic data interchange] vendors that has taken to the Internet," said Michael Sullivan-Trainor, director of Internet research for International Data Corporation. "It's one of the original e-commerce folks that have ventured out now to build Internet commerce as part of their offering."

Today's announcements included a new Web interface, called Commerce:Tracker, that lets users track shipments on Sterling Commerce's secure private EDI network. EDI involves sending forms-based transactions directly from computer to computer without human intervention.

Initially the system tracks packages sent by motor vehicles, but rail and air shipments will be added as well.

The company unveiled new features for two of its secure communications products in its Connect family. Connect:Mailbox now allows users to access information in mainframe computers using file transfer protocol (FTP).

Connect:Direct for the Web is Java-based software that creates a Web interface for Sterling's point-to-point data exchange software. Normally Connect:Direct runs in automated mode, but the new feature lets Web browsers send or receive specific data at a given time.

On Monday, Sterling Commerce unveiled new features for its Gentran Web suite. Web EDI facilitates using EDI protocols over the Internet. It works with Sterling's Gentran:Server product.

Sullivan-Trainor said Sterling Commerce is trying to distance itself from other EDI vendors but is running into global e-commerce players IBM and Hewlett Packard.

"That has certainly given them the need to add to their technology portfolio and to extend to other markets. It's a challenge for a somewhat smaller, more tightly focused company in e-commerce to compete against the worldwide engines of IBM and HP," he added.