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UUNet to host e-commerce

UUNet Technologies outlines a plan to add an electronic commerce Web hosting service using Microsoft's Merchant Server software.

Internet service provider UUNet Technologies today outlined a plan to add an electronic commerce Web hosting service using Microsoft's (MSFT) Merchant Server software.

The offering for firms which have Web sites running on Microsoft's Windows NT operating system is designed to help merchants sell on the Net easily and cost-effectively. It will include shopping cart software, secure transaction services, optional integration with the merchant's database, and automatic electronic payments.

"The combination of Merchant Server together with UUNet's external Web hosting will make it easier for people to do commerce," said Dave Foster, general manager of UUNet's Web services business.

Microsoft and UUNet have historically close ties. Microsoft uses UUNet's national network for its Microsoft Network online service, and Microsoft helped finance completion of that infrastructure by investing in UUNet. MFS Communications (MFST) acquired UUNet in August, and two weeks later MFS agreed to be acquired for $14.4 billion by WorldCom, a long distance carrier eager to diversify its offerings. That merger is expected to close in four to eight months.

UUNet has offered a Unix-based hosting service for 18 months but so far has not packaged e-commerce offerings on the Unix side. Foster said it is "highly probable" that such a service will be added. Some UUNet clients are conducting commerce on Unix machines using Secure Sockets Layer security.

UUNet's NT service will support a variety of secure payment systems, including VeriFone's vPOS merchant software.

Merchant Server is scheduled to be introduced this week at Microsoft's developer conference in San Jose, California. It is based on a system Microsoft acquired when it purchased eShop in June.

No prices have been set for UUNet's electronic commerce service, which will become available in December, but an additional fee will be tacked onto existing NT hosting services. UUNet's NT hosting starts at $500 monthly for shared hosting and $3,000 monthly for dedicated hosting, plus start-up costs.

UUNet's move into Web commerce hosting services follows similar announcements from AT&T and PSINet earlier this month.