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Sterling targets biz-to-biz market

Sterling Commerce opens its service to link Web-based catalogs to back-end electronic data interchange systems running over secure networks.

Sterling Commerce (SE) today opened its service to link Web-based catalogs to back-end electronic data interchange (EDI) systems running over Sterling's secure private network.

Sterling's move is the latest effort by EDI companies, particularly those involved in offering value-added networks (VANs), to offer Internet-based services.

The new effort adds to Sterling's suite of Internet commerce services for the Web. Yesterday, the company announced a service that lets smaller companies use the Internet as a gateway to Sterling's EDI network. Electronic data interchange lets companies send transactions directly from computer to computer without human intervention.

With today's announcement, targeted at business-to-business marketers, Sterling is looking to help companies create Web-based catalogs that allow customers using a Web browser to search for and order products. Transactions are routed to Sterling's EDI services and secure network as well as the seller's Web site residing at Sterling's data center.

"Our Internet partners program has been working to help companies bring ordering systems onto the Web," said Sterling spokesman Dave Kishler. "We are basically 'productising' that function."

Earlier this week, Atlanta-based Electronic Commerce Systems unveiled a similar EDI-over-the-Net service, but ECS claims its version, based on FTP (file transfer protocol), offers more features than email-based offerings.

In November, DynamicWeb Transaction Systems released its software to build Web storefronts from EDI documents and then link to a secure VAN to transmit orders.

In addition, Actra Business Systems, a joint venture of Netscape Communications and Sterling Commerce rival GE Information Services (GEIS), are working on EDI over the Internet, targeting business users in a similar fashion.

Pricing for Sterling's catalog service have not been finalized, but Sterling has announced that Owens Corning and Pirelli Cables North America, a division of the tire company, will launch Web-based catalogs this spring.