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Big Blue Unveils Commerce Integration Platform

NEW YORK -- IBM has helped lead the charge to define Web services standards as part of an effort to secure a place as a leader in the integration space. On Monday, Big Blue reiterated its strategy and launched the newest addition to its middleware integration suite, CrossWorlds Extender for WebSphere Commerce.

CrossWorlds Extender, built on J2EE, XML and other Web services standards, is aimed at serving one of the highest levels of integration -- business process integration. In the commerce space, business process integration (at its simplest) means pulling together order placement, order planning and order shipping in an integrated, streamlined solution.

The company is billing the software as an "out-of-the-box" integration solution which will make it easier to track orders, manage inventory and ship goods by tying together business processes to help organizations streamline their operations.

The infrastructure is built around WebSphere Application Server and DB2 Universal Database, and IBM said it features an open architecture based on a Java programming model, intended to make it simple for developers to add or customize features to their needs.

But while CrossWorlds Extender, which IBM plans to generally release in the third quarter starting at $150,000, addresses commerce from a business process integration standpoint (and Big Blue is codifying business process integration for other areas like financial services and telcos) IBM's strategy is to encompass all levels of integration, including user roles (like individualized employee, customer and partner portals), applications (the exposure and use of services between applications in order to connect applications together to benefit from automated updates and straight through processing of transactions), information (message-based integration which allows applications to asynchronously exchange event messages), directory/security, storage and operating environments.

Louis J. D'Ambrosio, vice president, Worldwide Sales & Marketing, IBM Software Group, noted that Oracle's strategy is to get customers to buy all their software from it in order to achieve an integrated solution, while Sun Microsystems offers integration to customers willing to use the Solaris operating environment for all their needs.

"We say, go out and pick the best applications in the world," he said. "Buy the best server in the world," and the middleware will provide the necessary integration.

Big Blue is betting on strong growth in the integration server software platform market, based on reports by firms like IDC, which has predicted the market will more than double to $4.3 billion by 2006. Further, a recent Gartner study found that 40 percent of customer IT budgets are spent on integration. Meanwhile, IBM's in-house data shows that 80 percent of customers around the world are in the early stages of e-business, less than 15 percent are fundamentally integrating their business processes, and about 5 percent are at an advanced stage where they are using technologies like Web services. Meanwhile, a May 2001 CIO survey by Morgan Stanley found that integration topped the list of customer strategic software projects for 2002.