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Net.Commerce dishes it out

IBM last week unwrapped a version of its Net.Commerce server for the AS/400 that reportedly provides customers with a better soup-to-nuts way of managing their e-commerce businesses and makes it easier to set up new sites.

Aimed at business-to-business and business-to-consumer commerce, Version 3 is more functionally complete, IBM officials said, in order to give it parity with versions of the product on other IBM platforms. It is also designed to be easily set up by first-time users.

"Version 3 puts it on a functional par with versions we have on [Windows] NT, AIX, and Solaris, which makes it easier for corporate users to integrate. But it is also designed so it is easier for new users," said Suzi Shaw Lyons, e-business marketing manager for IBM's AS/400 division.

Version 3 includes a Store Creation Wizard that lets customers set up a commerce site with predefined storefront templates. Other templates help users set up appearance, navigation, shopping and buying flow, browsing, registration, and shipment and payment methods.

Easy integration

It features improved tools for back-end integration that make it easier for users to integrate their existing legacy applications into server-based applications such as SAP's R/3.

Version 3 also features advanced catalogue tools to create shopping advisors and intelligent search methods that help customers determine product selection and a purchasing process.

The updated version also offers a more straightforward way to configure connectivity to Lotus Domino collaboration features, such as e-mail.

Some e-commerce analysts are not that convinced of the AS/400's future as a commerce platform, or that the Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) protocol is worthwhile to vendors other than IBM.

"IBM has more at stake with SET than most other vendors," said Vernon Keenan, an Internet analyst at KeenanVision.

"The AS/400 has turned out to be more of a disappointment [because] Unix has really thrashed AS/400 in the e-commerce space," Keenan said.

"Users tend to build e-commerce application servers from scratch, rather than leverage existing back-office platforms."